The caravan of the ongoing England-India series has reached Southampton. Till a few years back, this used to be the adopted home of Shane Warne, who had represented the Hampshire County Cricket Club for eight years and among those, he led the team in four seasons. Well, it was just a sheer coincidence that the man himself was at the Ageas Bowl, on the penultimate day before the start of this fourth Test match, which provided us a golden opportunity to get his insights regarding contemporary cricket.
From his busy schedule, Warne did manage to find some time for CricketSoccer for a brief interaction. Here is the excerpt from the chat.
CricketSoccer (CS): Great to see you back at the Rose Bowl. Are you here for the Test match?
Shane Warne (SW): Not really. I have been invited here by Hampshire to attend its “Captain’s Dinner”. All the living Hampshire captains had a dinner last night [Tuesday]. I am going back to London probably tomorrow or day after. Unfortunately, won’t be able to watch this game live.
CS: Are you following this series?
SW: Well, not throughout. But in bits and pieces [I have followed]. Wonderful comeback by India, hasn’t it? I love the aggressive instinct of this team. They have excellent bowling attack, especially the pacers. Really great to see India producing these world-class seamers, who are capable of taking 20 [opposition] wickets in any condition.
CS: Well, talking about this Indian team, they will be touring Australia at the end of this year. Can you see them winning the series against the depleted Australian team?
SW: This will be their best chance. It’s an ideal opportunity for India to register a Test series win in Australia. I guess, they are yet to win one there, right? I was just discussing this with some of the other Indian journalists as well. I believe this will be the first time India will be going to a Test series in Australia as favourites. Without Smith [Steven] and Warner [David] Australia’s batting will be weakened. Still, any Australian team is competitive. So, I can see four closely fought out matches over there.
CS: How do you rate this batting Indian line-up?
SW: Ohh, they are world class. Especially, Virat. He is one heck of a batsman. I love watching him bat, like the rest of the world. Others like Rahane [Ajinkya], Rahul [KL], Pujara [Cheteshwar] are exceptional batsmen as well. This line-up has the potential to get runs in every condition.
CS: Well, with this being your former home ground, how do see the wicket behaving here?
SW: The wicket looks fairly green from up here. I think it will have pace, bounce and carry. The batsmen from both teams really need to adapt quickly. I think, over here India should use someone like Rahul to attack [James] Anderson early. If he gets hit early in his spell, England can feel the pressure.
Also, England’s top order is yet to fire in the series. So, there is some vulnerability in their batting. So, against this in-form Indian bowling attack, they will have their task cut out. One of them [England batsmen] needs to make a big hundred.
CS: Do you think India should go ahead with an all-pace attack here?
SW: Well, not exactly. In fact, if I was in the Indian camp, I would have played two spinners. Believe, both [Ravindra] Jadeja and [Ravichandran] Ashwin would have bee a handful on this pitch. You can play the two fast bowlers plus an all-rounder and two spinners. Also, I think India will miss Kuldeep [Yadav]. They shouldn’t have sent him back. The last Test is at the Oval and spinners always play a crucial role there. So, here I think the Indian team has missed a trick.