Thursday, April 28, 2011

Duncan Fletcher's India?England can knock them off their perch, says Graeme Swann

Duncan Fletcher's India? England can knock them off their perch, says Graeme Swann

Last updated at 12:05 AM on 29th April 2011
Graeme Swann has thrown down the gauntlet to former England coach Duncan Fletcher ahead of India’s tour here in July, claiming that in English conditions ‘there’s no team in the world that can touch us’. 
Fletcher, who left the England post four years ago, this week signed a two-year deal to coach the world champions — with a return to these shores his first task in the most demanding role in the game.
Graeme Swann
But Swann, who played a single one-day international under the Zimbabwean in 1999-2000 before being ignored for the remaining seven years of his tenure, believes Fletcher’s Indians will be in for a shock when they arrive to defend their status as the top-ranked side in Tests.
‘If it swings around like it did last year and we play the same level of cricket, I think we’re going to give them a very good run for their money, if not beat them,’ said Swann, who is currently placed second behind South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn in the world Test rankings.
‘And if Jimmy Anderson bowls the way he did, there’s no team in the world that can touch us. India have got a couple of class bowlers: Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. But apart from those two, I don’t know how much experience they’ve got of English conditions with the Dukes ball.’
The England off-spinner claims he has no point to prove after famously falling foul of Fletcher during a tour to South Africa 11 years ago, when he was fined after twice missing the team bus.
‘It seems almost ridiculous looking back now,’ he said. ‘I was just a young upstart tourist who wasn’t good enough — I don’t bear any grudges. It’s probably fortunate I barely played on that trip, because I might have been found out and cast aside for good and never been given my eventual second chance.’ 
And Swann played down suggestions India — who won 1-0 here in 2007 during Peter
Moores’ ill-fated reign as coach — would be able to cash in on the 62-year-old’s inside knowledge of several members of the England team during the four-Test series, which starts at Lord’s on July 21.
Fletcher remains close to England captain Andrew Strauss, while Kevin Pietersen still regards his technical input as invaluable. Alastair Cook and Ian Bell were also given their break at the top level by the coach who steered England to their first Ashes win for 18 years in 2005. 
But Swann said: ‘These days it doesn’t matter from a technique point of view who the opposition coach is because you can just look at videos. 
Duncan Fletcher
‘If there is any advantage it will probably be mentally, because he’ll know some of our players better than other coaches. But there’s a lot of our team who he won’t know, which could be to our advantage as he might be trying to second-guess us a bit and could come a cropper.’
Swann, a central figure during England’s exhausting winter, plans to return to action for Nottinghamshire in their televised County Championship match against Sussex at Hove on May 10.
And he says he will not allow the second half of the winter, which petered out during an unpredictable but ultimately disappointing World Cup campaign, to overshadow the first half, when England won the Ashes in Australia for the first time since 1986-87. 
‘It’s difficult not to feel a bit deflated about how it finished, but I’m refusing to let that happen because it’s the best winter English cricket’s had for at least 24 years, if not longer,’ he said. 
‘You can take the World Cup out of it because, in England, the Ashes is bigger and always has been. I’d have taken winning the Ashes 3-1 every day of the week — even if it meant losing every World Cup game.’
England, who stand third in the Test rankings behind India and South Africa, must first take on fourth-placed Sri Lanka. 
But it is the India series that has plainly got juices flowing in the dressing room. 
‘You could argue that, after Australia, this is probably the most anticipated series for a while in this country,’ said Swann. 
If there was any doubt about that, the Fletcher sub-plot has removed it.
Graeme Swann is a brand ambassador for Kingfisher, India’s favourite beer.

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