England made a big mistake when they selected the India squad before the second Test against Bangladesh.
They are now left with a batsman in Gary Ballance who they do not want to pick but may have to play him at some point against India because of an injury or illness.
Instead they should have waited for the series against Bangladesh to end and then picked their squad. It is too late now. You can’t send Ballance home. It would ruin the lad. But England could still add to the squad and I would bring in Sam Billings.
England need to break up the number of left-handers in the batting line up otherwise Ravi Ashwin is going to have a field day.
But they have only one option and that is Jos Buttler because Haseeb Hameed has opened all his career and it would be wrong to throw him in to the middle order.
So they have merely one right-handed option. Billings would at least give them another choice and he is a very good player of spin. He is vibrant, positive and could bring a new energy. England have to arrive in India and do something different. They cannot line up and play the same way otherwise they will be hammered.
Is Billings a better player than spin than Buttler? At the moment we do not know but he would at least give them a choice of right-handers and is a better option than having to choose between Buttler or Ballance.
It is the batting that will give England a chance of competing against India. They have to take the matches into the fourth or fifth day to have any hope of winning. If we have three-day Tests they will be won by spinners and that means victory for India. England do not have any world-class spinners. We knew that before the winter started so they have to bat out of their skins to have a chance. The easy option after losing the second Test to Bangladesh is to blame the spin bowling but it is the batting which is my main concern.
They lost because the batsmen failed. England were 100 for no wicket. They needed 173 more runs to win the Test match with 10 wickets remaining. But they panicked. In the first innings England were 40 for three after Bangladesh had been dismissed for 220. That was England’s moment but it took a remarkable partnership between Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid for the ninth wicket to keep them in the game.
Without that partnership it would have been a really messy defeat. Yes, they are a young team and do not have a huge amount of experience but they have enough skill to be better.
Most of these guys have played in sub-continental conditions before. They have been on Lions tours. They should be able to produce better performances and what worries me the most is that England do not play well collectively often enough for the talent they have in the camp.
England usually win through individual brilliance such as Ben Stokes in Chittagong and Joe Root against Pakistan at Old Trafford last summer. The key to playing collectively is building batting partnerships. That is down to concentration.
The England one-day team is vibrant and does not rely on individuals to win matches. Players have great games but the one-day side performs as a unit. I do not see that in Test cricket and the management have to ask why that is the case.
Ben Duckett showed in Dhaka you can play aggressively in the subcontinent but it is very hard to do that in the middle of the innings when you have just lost a wicket. At the top of the order, when you are setting the tone, it is a lot easier to attack. But it is a lot tougher to do that in the middle-order with the ball turning and men around the bat.
You have to give yourself 10 balls to attune to conditions and somehow nullify the spin. When English batsmen play spin well they get close to the pitch of the ball but they are also able to play right back on the stumps because their footwork is good. At the moment most England’s batsmen are being caught in between going forward and back so they are giving the ball a chance to spin.
The only aspect England have in their favour over the next few weeks is that India are such overwhelming favourites. That takes the pressure off England. In Bangladesh everyone expected England to win but they came up against a team that was better than them in those conditions.
If England were playing another Test this week against Bangladesh I think they would be hammered by those spinners. When you look at the results, a 22- run win for England in the first Test and a 108-run loss, Bangladesh have had the better of the series, no question.
It is going to be a really challenging couple of months.