This Bangladesh series is perfect preparation for India. But if England are to have any chance of winning in India then they have to beat Bangladesh comprehensively over the next two Tests to lift confidence levels.
It would be a big problem for England to arrive in India next month with Gareth Batty having been smashed around the park, Adil Rashid struggling to take wickets and a couple of batters not in nick.
I do not expect that will happen, because Bangladesh are a weak Test team, so this is a golden opportunity to find form, because already the challenge of winning in India has been made more difficult by the absence of a fully fit James Anderson.
While I never worried about the lack of first-choice players in the one-day series against Bangladesh, it is different for the Test team in the subcontinent. Winning is hard enough without the threat of losing established players.
We are still waiting to hear whether Anderson will be able to play a part in India, but even if he is passed fit he will have had no match practice before the first Test in Rajkot after being ruled out of the Bangladesh tour.
Anderson is reaching the twilight years of his career but for the past four or five years he has set the tone on flat wickets in Asia. He bowled superbly in the UAE last winter, conceding runs at just 1.87 per over, and he took 25 wickets at 20 when England won in India four years ago. With the new ball he consistently bowls in the right zones, he builds up dots, and the way England will take 20 wickets is by applying pressure to the batsmen.
One seamer cannot bowl a side out in the subcontinent but he can lead the way for others to follow. England lack a firecracker fast bowler or mystery spinner who will rip through batting line-ups so they have to force the opposition into making mistakes.
For that to happen the batsmen need to set the game up by putting big scores on the board that enable the bowlers to strangle the opposition. We saw in the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi a year ago how a big first-innings score almost won England the match. They made 598 and Pakistan were left hanging on at the end for a draw.
It will be interesting to see how Bangladesh and India approach playing England’s bowlers. Last winter Pakistan blocked the seamers and waited for Rashid and Moeen Ali to come on. That would be my tactic playing England this winter. Do not gift wickets when the seamers are bowling.
England will expect that approach from the opposition so they must not waste the new ball. They have to find the right length immediately to make the most of the ball misbehaving for the first 10 overs or so.
Then they have to squeeze the opposition and wait for the ball to begin reversing. If they do that, then they have a chance.
In Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes they have bowlers capable of providing consistency. Ben Stokes can then be the surprise weapon. When the pitch flattens out, and a not a great deal is happening, it is worth having a bowler who brings something different to the side. Stokes can get into a battle with a batman and be hostile in a short burst. It is the kind of thing that can bring a breakthrough from nowhere.
England do not have a spinner who will run through a team, but they can be dangerous. If England take the game deep into the fourth or fifth day then Rashid can exploit a wearing pitch. Top-order batsmen should be able to read him because he does not disguise his variations enough, but he has the skills to question lower-order player.
Batty has been the most consistent English spinner in county cricket for the past couple of years and they were right to pick him regardless of his age. Sometimes in this country we spend too long looking ahead to the Ashes instead of concentrating on the here and now. England have series to win in Bangladesh and then India before thinking about the Ashes.
Batty is ultra-competitive, and as a finger spinner you have to be aggressive towards the batsman. You have to con them into believing you are bowling great balls. Basically, finger spinners have to be good actors.
Swann did it brilliantly. Moeen bowls good balls but is very quiet and does not question the batsman’s mindset. Batty will bowl orthodox, good off-spinners but his persona and aggression will unsettle the opposition.
England’s dream scenario is striking early and taking two or three with the new ball before sitting in and hoping the spinners can dislodge a couple by bowling consistently. If they can then reverse-swing the ball, leaving Rashid to finish off the tail, then they have a chance.
For that to happen, fielding will have to be better. England are too inconsistent given that they are all lithe athletes these days. They have to target being the best fielding side in the world. They are a long way off it, but that is a goal they can set themselves and achieve with hard work.
Work on that starts this week in Chittagong. On paper it is not a very important Test match. But as a staging post on the way to India it is vital.