Mushtaq quick to press spinners' case
Mushtaq Ahmed, England’s new spin bowling coach, is confident his pupils can play a crucial role in the outcome of the Test series in the West Indies.
The Caribbean has traditionally been a favourite hunting ground for fast bowlers, with the great West Indies sides of the past built around a battery of intimidating pacemen.
However, the concrete-like pitches of yesteryear have made way for considerably more sporting surfaces in recent times, good news not only for batsmen who no longer feel like coconuts at a fairground, but also for spinners previously called upon only when the quicker men needed a breather.
The inclusion of three slow bowlers in the 16-strong England squad which arrived in St Kitts yesterday reflects the shift in emphasis, and Mushtaq expects Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann and Adil Rashid to be central figures in the four-Test series.
“I always say that spinners can play anywhere in the world, no matter what the conditions and the pitch are like, and they can be match-winners anywhere,” Mushtaq told ecb.co.uk.
“The pitches in West Indies are not like they used to be, but they have also been quite slow for spinners for the last couple of years.
“So you have got to have a little bit of experience, and you have got to vary your pace a lot if you are going to be successful.”
Mushtaq, who began his role at the ECB last week, will accompany the Test squad in the West Indies before joining up with the England Lions party in New Zealand next month.
The ECB wasted little time in recruiting the former Pakistan and Sussex leg-spinner following his retirement late last season, no doubt keen to tap into a wealth of knowledge gained during a 14-year international career.
“Experience is everything,” Mushtaq said. “I always say you can buy a bed but you can’t buy sleep.
“It’s important to pass that experience on, and hopefully I can do that with the things I have learned over the years.
“I will be trying to help with the technical side of things and also the tactical side - it’s a bit of both - although I believe the tactical side of things is far more important than the technical.
“We are taking three spinners to the West Indies, so it’s obviously important for them and the team. It’s a good time to work with them.”
Rashid’s inclusion in the Test squad has raised hopes among some that he could mature into a world-class leg-spinner, while sparking fears in others that this opportunity may have come too soon.
David Parsons, the ECB performance director and Mushtaq’s predecessor as spin bowling coach, has faith in the 20-year-old, and Mushtaq too has been impressed after working with Rashid at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough last week.
“I’d seen Adil close up when I played against Yorkshire for Sussex over the last couple of years, and I've enjoyed it this week,” said Mushtaq.
“He’s growing and he’s doing better, that’s for sure. He’s got a lot of talent and he can serve England well.”