IND Vs ENG: Ben Stokes Attributes His Spinners For England’s Victory In First Test Against India

England's victory over India in the first Test has boosted their morale. Captain Ben Stokes believes that the inclusion of spinners like Tom Hartley, Mark Wood and others gave them ample opportunities to do wonders

 (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
England National Cricket Team Captain, Ben Stokes with his teammate Tom Hartley celebrate England's victory in the first cricket test match against India in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Long before debutant spinner Tom Hartley bowled England to a famous win in the first Test against India, skipper Ben Stokes had asserted that the tweakers picked for the series "give us the best opportunity" to humble the Asian giants in their own backyard. (More India Vs England Test News)

Playing in his first Test, left-arm spinner Hartley picked up seven wickets in the Indian second innings to script a 28-run victory for the tourists, who gambled with a lone specialist pacer in Mark Wood in Hyderabad.

"I think sometimes inexperience can be looked at into a bit too much. There's no doubt that experience makes players feel more comfortable and settled, especially in this environment," Stokes said in an interview with 'JioCinema' when asked about his approach behind selecting spinners just before the start of the series opener.

He added: "But the spinners we've selected on this tour are ones we think will give us the best opportunity to beat India. For me, it's not just about the spinners but understanding the talent they have and allowing them to go out there and express that talent and giving them the platform and the best possible opportunity to not worry about the outcome too much and focus on what cricket actually is."

In the run-up to the five-match series, there was a bit of chatter around the visitors' inexperienced spin unit, but Stokes is not one to read much into all these analyses.

"As a bowler, your job is to think about taking wickets. As a batsman, it's about going out there and scoring runs. Anything more than that is overcomplicating it. I'm just taking away that fear and anxiety around the outcome."

No team has beaten India in India since 2012, when England under Alastair Cook emerged triumphant after losing the first Test, and that is not lost on Stokes.

On the challenge of beating India in India, Stokes said, "India is a hard place to come and win a game, never mind a five-match series. It's been a mission for any team who've come here to turn over India. We understand that and respect that.

"But again, it comes down to opportunity. We've got an amazing opportunity ahead of us. The squad we've picked from spinners to our seam bowlers to our batters, I think it's going to give us the best opportunity to win a series in India."

Having led the country to some fines wins since taking over Test captaincy from Joe Root, Stokes says he never aspired to be a leader.

"It's something I never had any aspirations to do or really thought about too much, to be honest. I never really had too much responsibility around captaining or anything, either in age-group cricket or any other level.

"I had a little taste of it with the Durham Academy. This opportunity presented itself to me and it was something I couldn't turn down. It’s a role I have grown into, it’s a role that I've really enjoyed.

"I love everything that comes with it, the responsibility of looking after people from different types of angles. Whether it be out in the field or away from the field. Understanding different individuals and personalities, because in a team sport, you have got a lot of people and not everyone is the same. That’s helped me mature as a person.

When the discussion turned to 'bazball', he said the team tries to stay away from the term.

"It's a phrase that was created by the media. Something that we try and stay away from. It just came from what we have managed to do over the last two years and how we've played.

 "We don't necessarily like it, Baz (coach Brendon McCullum) hates it! Whenever that word pops up, we just try to say that's how England plays Test cricket," Stokes said. 

Speaking about the Test format, Stokes said it remains the pinnacle of cricket for him.

"I'm from that mould of cricketers who have fortunately been able to go through the transition of where cricket is. Test cricket, in particular, is where it's all up for me.

"It's my favourite format. Part of that is because of how much hard work you have to put into it to come out a winner.

"When Test matches go five days and you're sitting in the changing room after winning that game, there's nothing more satisfying than looking back on the five days and how much hard work you've had to put in to get that moment. Test cricket for me, is the pinnacle of cricket, regardless of where cricket has transitioned to," Stokes said.