• England in India 2012-13

Swann flies home ahead of first Test

George Dobell
November 7, 2012
Graeme Swann is expected to return in time for the first Test © Getty Images

Graeme Swann, England's premier spinner, has flown home ahead of the final tour match against Haryana to spend time with his daughter who is unwell. He is expected to return before the first Test on November 15 in Ahmedabad.

"This is a personal matter and we would ask for everyone to give Graeme and his family privacy. We will not be making any further comment at this time," the ECB said in a statement.

The development means England will be without three of their first choice four-man attack in the final warm-up match ahead of the first Test against India with Stuart Broad and Steven Finn both suffering from injury.

Neither Broad or Finn are expected to play in the match against Haryana that starts on Thursday, meaning that, even if they recover in time for the Test that starts on November 15, they will have had very little preparation. Finn, who has a thigh strain, managed just four overs in the first warm-up match before he was forced from the pitch, while Broad, who has a bruised heel, missed the first game and bowled only 10 overs in the second. Finn's injury is thought to be the more serious and he must be considered most unlikely to play in the first Test.

England may also decide to rest James Anderson for the final warm-up match. Anderson, Broad and Finn were expected to play as part of a three-man seam attack in the Test series. With Anderson, who has played in both of the first two matches, the last man standing, his importance to the team has grown even further. England have called-up Surrey fast bowler Stuart Meaker as back-up and it is likely that he will come into the team to play Haryana. Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan are the other seamers with the squad.

"It's unlikely that Broad or Finn will be considered for this game," Graham Gooch, England's batting coach said. "They've both got injuries, and I don't think they're going to be ready for this game.

"With a bruised heel, it is something that can be very annoying and can take time to clear up. You've got to see how it goes each day, whether it gets better with the rest - keep checking it and see how it comes on. There's no other way of going about it really."

There was better news for England in the form of Kevin Pietersen. England were given a day-off on Wednesday, but Pietersen was among three players - Meaker and Samit Patel were the others - to take advantage of some extra batting practise. Certainly Gooch has been impressed by Pietersen's determination to prove his worth upon his return to the team.

With fences mended and differences made up, Pietersen's determination is renewed and his motivation high. "I know Kevin is focused," Gooch said. "I've seen the way he's been practising. A fit and strong Kevin Pietersen is a player to be reckoned with.

"He's looking forward. What's in the past is in the past. The only thing that counts is what's in the future - what he's going to do, how he's going to interact with the team, what sort of performances he's looking to give.

"I don't think it's an issue with Kevin. All the things have been done and dusted. From my conversations with him and from the way he is working, he's looking forward to this tour."

While it is anticipated that England's batsmen will face a trial by spin in India, Gooch is taking nothing for granted against India's seam attack. But as well as preparing batsmen for the cricketing challenges, the England management also prepared them for the noise and hostility they anticipate by playing crowd noise from loudspeakers and the team psychologist, Mark Bawden, occupying the net next to the batsmen and testing their ability to ignore distractions by clapping, appealing and shouting.

"We're not majoring on spin," Gooch said. "That's not the only type of bowling we're going to face. They've got two very good opening bowlers, two out of three from Umesh Yadav, Zaheer Khan or Ishant Sharma, and two spinners.

"Our build-up has gone to plan. People have got runs; there's been some wickets. Some of our players have learned a little bit in the couple of weeks we've been here.

"Nowadays, when you are trying to stimulate players with training, you come up with different ideas. There's a bit of noise there, a little idea to make it slightly different. You're looking to motivate, to push the players to get the very best out of them. You come up with different ideas. It's not a major thing, just something that's a little bit different.

"I think coming to India is one of the greatest challenges. It's a wonderful place to play cricket. The enthusiasm for the game - with the advent of the IPL - has created even more excitement. We know India are a top side in their own country. Not long ago they were rated number one, and you don't do that without putting on consistent performances. But we've come here to win the series; we've not come here to make up the numbers."

While only one new face - probably Nick Compton - is anticipated in the team for the first Test, there is likely to be an opportunity for another specialist batsmen in the second Test with Ian Bell expected to return to England to be present at the birth of his first child.

"It's going to be quite a difficult selection," Gooch said. "Our guys are pretty much all experienced Test players: Alastair Cook; Jonathan Trott; Kevin Pietersen; Ian Bell and Matt Prior. There will be maybe one new face.

"Nick Compton and Joe Root are two very good players, obviously at different levels of their career. One has been in the first-class game for quite a while. Compton has gained experience and found his mark. He has found the way he can score runs and been very successful over the last couple of years for Somerset.

"The other lad is obviously a young, exciting player. He has a good technique from what I've seen - this is the first time I've seen him close up - and he bowls a bit. So it's going to be quite a difficult selection.

"Then you've got Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Samit Patel all bidding for places. But I like competition for places. You want that. You want people to be putting their hand up and saying 'I want that place in the side'."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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