Swann wins Test call
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Graeme Swann will make his Test debut this week as England confirmed they will employ two spinners in the opening match against India.
The Nottinghamshire off-spinner was chosen in a line-up which features two changes from England's last Test against South Africa at the Brit Oval last summer.
Swann has been selected to partner left-arm spinner Monty Panesar in Chennai. Seamer Stuart Broad misses out due to a hamstring injury, while Matt Prior returns as wicketkeeper as a replacement for Tim Ambrose, who was preferred for last summer's home defeat to South Africa.
Today’s promotion ends a long wait for Swann, who was selected for the 1999-2000 tour to South Africa but failed to feature in any of the Tests and was overlooked thereafter.
England captain Kevin Pietersen revealed that watching Australia off-spinner Jason Krejza, who claimed 12 wickets on his Test debut in Nagpur last month, convinced him that playing two spinners was the best way forward in India.
“It’s a decision we have come to because we think the wicket could spin,” explained Pietersen. “We’ve had a look at it and it probably gives us our best and most attacking option.
“Graeme Swann has bowled absolutely fantastically leading up to this Test match and done a great job so it’s a well-deserved debut.
“They are not bad players of spin but it’s pretty important we go in with two spinners. It doesn’t matter how good a player of spin you are, you still have to play well on the day.
“Any debutant is keen and he’ll be ready and right at the Indian batsmen. We saw Krejza did well against India as an off-spinner and I think Swann can do a better job.”
Swann was understandably delighted when Pietersen revealed the team at a players’ meeting this morning, but the skipper admitted the final line-up had been a difficult decision.
“He was ecstatic when I told him,” said Pietersen. “It’s a huge moment for anybody to get a Test cap and he’s thrilled to bits.
“When I announced the team to the lads this morning I said to them it was one of the most difficult decisions to make.
“Playing a Test match for England is the biggest and best thing to do for us as Englishmen and to pick 11 out of a squad that is competing for all places is pretty difficult.
“It’s a healthy situation when we’ve got players like Owais Shah, Amjad Khan and Adil Rashid around putting pressure on and trying to get a place.
“It’s going to be difficult but as a spin bowler he’ll probably look forward to bowling out there,” Pietersen added of the challenge facing Swann.
“Certainly, as a batter you look forward to playing in India because of the wickets so I think it could work in his favour.
“Looking at the way Krejza bowled and Shaun Udal bowled for us the last time we were here, off-spinners have done all right here.
"It’s something to look forward to and anyone who makes their debut they are really buzzing and really up for it.
“He’s a good guy, he’s always up, always bubbly and not a lot gets him down, so let’s hope he stays that way.”
Asked about the decision to recall Prior, who struggled for runs during the one-day series several weeks ago, Pietersen added: “I think Matty Prior gives us a much better option with the bat.
“I’m really keen on his batting and I think he’s improved tremendously with his keeping so it’s about time he gets a run as well.
“The one-day series was a tough tour for everybody. The four weeks we were out here was pretty tough and he is not the only one who has lost a bit of confidence over the last month.”
The first Test gets under way on Thursday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, with the second Test scheduled for Mohali from December 19-23.
England and India will hold a minute’s silence to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai before the start of the first Test.
The sides will line up at the ground at 9.20am, 10 minutes before the scheduled start, and observe a minute’s silence in memory of those killed in the attacks on November 26.
They will also wear black armbands during the match, while England have committed to giving half their match fees - around £35,000 - to help victims of the attacks.