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England cricket’s Pakistan connect and how it turned their fortunes

The England dressing room has had an Asian connect for quite some time. The current cricket team has three spinners of Pakistani descent

cricket Updated: Nov 17, 2016 16:37 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Mentoring a talented line-up of England spinners led by Adil Rashid (right) is Pakistan spin great Saqlain Mushtaq.
Mentoring a talented line-up of England spinners led by Adil Rashid (right) is Pakistan spin great Saqlain Mushtaq.(Getty Images)

For a country that can’t bear losing to Australia, England have also done remarkably well against India. Among all the teams to have toured India in the last decade, England have the best win-loss ratio. The quality and skills of their players have improved remarkably but England couldn’t have pulled this off without a bit of help from the sub-continent itself.( India vs England SCORECARD| Day 1 HIGHLIGHTS)

It started with the hiring of former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmedas spin bowling coach from 2008 to 2014. England toured India in 2008 and even though they lost the two-match series 1-0, the seeds of revival had been sown.

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar took eight and six wickets respectively but returned home with enough feedback to work on for a marquee series of 2012. This time, Swann took 20 wicket, Panesar 17 and England won 2-1. That win didn’t take much time to convince England of the benefits including more British Asians. It quickly turned into a social experiment.

Pakistani influence in the England cricket team started when the ECB roped in Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed (Getty Images)

A piece of Pakistan in England

Right now, the England team for the second Test in Visakhapatnam has three spinners of Pakistani descent. And while Zafar Ansari is a Cambridge Blue and concert pianist, both Adil Rashidand Moeen Ali are more middle-class British Asians hailing from Mirpur, located in the region known as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to India and Azad Kashmir to their neighbours.

Mentoring them is former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who was hired as consultant in the home series against Pakistan earlier this year before his contract was extended to cover this tour of India. Proclaimed as the cheerleader of the team by Ansari, Mushtaq seems to be already coming up with results.

India have played a part in England’s progress too. In Haseeb Hameed, the teenaged batsman who once played in Mumbai’s maidans, England have someone with roots in Gujarat.

Two of their most accomplished batsmen --- Alastair Cook and Joe Root --- made their debuts in Nagpur and looked from the start as if they belonged here. And by making the 2011 World Cup final with Sri Lanka before winning two IPL titles with Kolkata Knight Riders, chief coach Trevor Bayliss proved his credentials in cracking the code to coaching subcontinent teams.

England’s success in India boils down to many reasons. But the clincher lies in their ability to learn from their mistakes, embrace multi-cultural players and seek opinion from experts, irrespective of their nationality. Once masters of the game, they have no problem being schooled again if it serves their ultimate aim.