Prior keeps even view of Ahmedabad wicket
Matt Prior has a better view than most of the pitches England play Test cricket on and the wicketkeeper says the tourists need to have an ‘open mind’ about the first-Test track at Ahmedabad.
The 30-year-old’s two Tests in India came during England’s last series there, a 1-0 loss in December 2008. Although neither of those games were at the Sardar Patel Stadium, he knows not prejudge the wicket for Thursday’s opening Test of four.
Playing on the stadium’s ‘B’ ground in the four-day draw with Haryana showed Prior how flat the first-Test surface may be - Tim Bresnan called it “possibly the best I’ve ever bowled on” - but the real deal could be quite different.
“A lot of time you look at a wicket in India and think it’s going to deteriorate and turn into a dust bowl and a snake pit - and it’s flat the whole game,” Prior said.
“There are other wickets that look flat for three days, and then the last two suddenly it turns and goes very low.
“We’ll have to keep our minds open, our options open and adapt to whatever circumstance over the five days of the Test.”
Whichever bowlers England pick, and are available, Prior is adamant they will be up to the job.
“Our bowling unit is a serious group of bowlers,” he added. “The way they performed in the UAE and Sri Lanka at the start of the year was phenomenal.
“You won’t get much hotter or humid conditions than what we got in Sri Lanka, and they performed brilliantly. They didn’t just bowl well - they did awesomely well - and we just needed to get a few more runs, unfortunately.”
He added: “From a skills point of view - whether it is swinging, seaming, reverse-swinging or spinning - I think we’ve got all areas covered. That will be vital.
“Because of the batting failures, not much was made of how well the bowlers did. Before we went to the UAE and Sri Lanka, all the talk was about how do we take 20 wickets on these flat pitches. Well, the guys did it every time - and they did it cheaply a lot of the time. Nine out of 10 of those matches you’d expect to win, but we didn’t.
“Still, from the bowling point of view, if they can perform like they did last winter then we’ll be in a very good position to win this series.”
Samit Patel played in the Sri Lanka Tests as a second spin option behind Graeme Swann and the all-rounder is in fine batting form on this tour with 231 runs in his first three innings.
“I do think he is growing in confidence - and like any all-rounder, if one facet of your game is working well then it rubs off onto the other part of your game,” Prior said.
“Samit could potentially be a key figure in this Test series for us - and not just with the bat, but with the ball as well. He has got an important role as the other spin option for Cooky, and he has the ability to take wickets.
“We would love to see him chip in with runs and wickets out here, because it will take a team contribution from us all to win - and he’s got a part to play.”
Prior at least knows the pitches in this rubber will differ significantly from those at home where England whitewashed India 4-0 15 months ago to go top of the Test rankings.
Although series defeats to Pakistan and South Africa have seen them slip to second, he is ready for the challenge ahead over the next month.
“Certainly the shoe’s on the other foot ... but we’ve done a lot of good work - obviously after the bad experience of last winter [whitewashed by Pakistan in the UAE], learning a lot from that and coming over here,” Prior added.
“We go into this Test match feeling fully prepared that we’ve covered every base.”
David Gower led England last time they won a Test series in India and Prior is determined to end 27 years of disappointment.
“Cricket is a religion out here, and to play in front of people who have that mentality towards your game is a fantastic opportunity for any cricketer,” he said. “To then come out here and win in that environment would be even better.
“I think the records speak for themselves - how long it’s been since England last won out here. All these little challenges amount to something that, if we could pull it off, would be a fantastic honour to be part of.”
Meanwhile, India have called up Ashok Dinda as cover for fellow seamer Ishant Sharma who missed practice today because of a viral infection.