England's appointment of Sri Lanka great Mahela Jayawardene on a consultancy basis for part of their autumn series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates is really smart thinking.
I was part of the England squad that lost 3-0 in the UAE in 2012 and we really struggled on the turning pitches. Spin will form a massive part of Pakistan’s armoury and they will see that as their strength and their best route to victory.
Pakistan’s spinners will likely do the donkey work and probe to find England’s weaknesses. That is why Jayawardene is such a fantastic appointment and why England’s batsmen can only benefit.
He has been brought up on the spin-friendly pitches of Sri Lanka and will be able to offer help and impart little influences.
I witnessed this season at Surrey how adept fellow Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara is at playing spin, casually manoeuvring the ball around the field and finding the gaps. Jayawardene will bring a similar level of know-how with him.
Having access to Jayawardene and of course Trevor Bayliss, who previously coached Sri Lanka and also has knowledge of such pitches and conditions, can only be beneficial.
When former Pakistan spinner Mushtaq Ahmed came into the England set-up in 2008 he was enormously helpful to fellow slow bowlers Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.
At county level too, Duncan Fletcher’s stint at Hampshire on a consultancy basis was equally advantageous. These sorts of guys can have big influences even if they are only hired on a short-term basis.
The same applies to former one-day skipper Paul Collingwood’s appointment to work with England’s limited-overs squads in the UAE and also during next year’s World T20 in India. Paul played 197 one-day matches for England, more than any other player.
He can add so much value with the knowledge he has picked up down the years through playing in competitions all around the world and in different conditions.
In 2007, I was part of the England one-day touring party which won a one-day series in Sri Lanka for the first time since 1982. Players like Paul were invaluable in being able to succeed on those sorts of tours.
It wasn’t necessarily about whacking it into the stands every ball, there is a lot of skill involved in rotating the strike on turning pitches. Being able to tap into his knowledge will be key for the players.
Meanwhile, it was great to see my Surrey mate Zafar Ansari being called into the Test squad for the UAE. He has taken on a big responsibility with the ball this season and taken 44 wickets.
Let’s hope his thumb injury recovers in time. He probably won’t play over there even if his thumb does heal, but going forward it will be great for him to be around that England squad.
I thought opener Nick Compton might have squeezed in there. However, it looks as though Alex Hales and Moeen Ali are the candidates to open the batting alongside skipper Alastair Cook, although I don’t think either are long-term options there.
Finally, good luck to Surrey in their Royal London One-Day Cup final against Gloucestershire at Lord’s on Saturday.
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