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Graeme Swann links up with England Lions

Former England off spinner Graeme Swann has been working with the England Lions ahead of their winter programme.

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Graeme Swann links up with England Lions

James Vince is presented with his test cap by Graeme Swann at Headingley

Graeme Swann was happy to help the Lions last week in their preparations for a winter schedule that will have a heavy accent on subcontinental spin, with matches against the UAE and Afghanistan at the end of the forthcoming training camp in Dubai, then a five-week tour of Sri Lanka in the New Year.

But the former England wildcard remained uncompromising in his conviction that English cricket as a whole still needs to rethink its attitude to spin.

Swann spent a day at the Performance Centre in Loughborough as the Lions finalised their preparations for this week's departure for Dubai, working in the nets with Ollie Rayner of Middlesex, Somerset's Jack Leach and Tom Westley of Essex before forming a wisecracking double act with injured Durham fast bowler Mark Wood in a conversation about the challenges of international cricket, specifically on the subcontinent.

"Andy Flower and Peter Such asked me to get involved," he explained, "to see if I could talk to the spinners a bit. Not so much coaching, probably mentoring I suppose – talk to them about bowling in the subcontinent before they go. And then talk to all the Lions lads about playing for England, what it means, and any little pointers I can help with.

"It's not a technical thing, I'm not a technical coach, never have been – I was never a technical bowler, I didn't like getting too deep down and dirty. It's about bowling and knowing the game, and what I can give them to help them move on to the next level."

"It's about bowling and knowing the game, and what I can give them to help them move on to the next level"

Graeme Swann

As a long-time supporter of Moeen Ali, Swann will also have enjoyed a promising start to the Test series in India for an England team including three spinners.

And with a number of young spinners on overseas placements in Australia and New Zealand this winter funded by the ECB, following the decision to stick with the new toss regulations that were introduced to the Specsavers County Championship last season, there are other tangible examples of a commitment to encouraging spin.

But Swann is typically outspoken in suggesting that now is the time for English cricket to do much, much more.

"It's the game as a whole," he said. "The entire system, and the way we think about cricket. From county cricket, county scheduling, the whole pitch thing – there should be three or four places in the country where it spins square. Playing four-day cricket, it should be actively encouraged, rather than frowned upon still. I don't think you get docked points any more if it turns on day one, but if it turns square on day one you probably would, people would turn their noses up. But look at what happened in Bangladesh, day one of that Test Match, turning square before lunch. It happens around the world, and the more places we go now the more places it will turn square because teams like us and Australia aren't comfortable against it. Speaking to Ricky Ponting the other day and he said it's exactly the same for Australia - people know your weaknesses away from home and they'll play to it. We need to be able to handle that.

"I'm happy to do whatever I can to get us ahead of the world. We should be ahead of the world - we've got better resources than anyone. We've got better players than anyone, I'm convinced of it. There's no talent pool better than the one we've got in England. So let's use it."

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