Defend when you're attacking
Before my tour to India with Australia in 2004 - the first time I won a Test series in India - I was asked to prepare a presentation to the squad about how we could take 20 wickets and win. I put together a package for all the bowlers and they loved it.
There were two important points: attacking bowling with defensive fields and defensive bowling with attacking fields. That sounds counterintuitive, so it's important to grasp the thinking behind this statement.
We went with that mindset in 2004 and it worked. If, for instance, Glenn McGrath was all over VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then that was the time to adopt a defensive field and not be overly aggressive. With McGrath bowling well you knew they would be caught behind the wicket, lbw or bowled. So we defended with the field.
Basically, attacking with the ball is trying everything you can to take a wicket as you feel the ball is coming out well and the team need a breakthrough, which is why you want to defend with the field because when you are trying different things you do bowl a few more bad deliveries.
Defending with the ball means bowling nothing but your stock delivery and being super patient, so you can attack with the field as there won't be any bad balls.
It is a big difference from playing in other parts of the world and takes time to understand. If James Anderson is swinging the ball all over the place then it is not the time to attack and have four slips, leg gully and bat-pad because if he gets it slightly wrong it goes for four. If that happens too often, you lose momentum. This is when the defensive field-attacking bowling theory works.
When he's just attempting to take the ball away from the right-hander - his stock ball, so defensive bowling - then attack with the field.
The Indian guys thrive on boundaries. They like to have momentum all the time. If you slow that down, be patient and try to ensure that when they hit good shots they don't get boundaries, we found they became frustrated.
They started playing attacking shots to your defensive bowling - the stock ball matched with aggressive fields. That is when you took a wicket and the theory worked.
Captains must be brave
As for the captain, it is a huge test for Alastair Cook on his first tour in the job. At times he will have to hold his nerve. So far the signs have been fantastic. His captaincy has been imaginative but you are never the best captain you can be in your first series.
He will learn a lot about himself which will hold him in good stead. He has to be patient, communicate with his bowlers and be positive in everything he does, whether it be with body language, press conferences and interviews or batting.
It is also important the senior players back him up with performances. If the Kevin Pietersens, Graeme Swanns and James Andersons don't deliver then India are going to win. We won in India because the senior players stood up, put big runs on the board and ensured their mates were not coming to the crease under pressure. Pretty thirties are useless. It is about seeing the job through.
Can England do the same and be the first team since 2004 to win in India? These days the top sides in the world are so close and for that reason home advantage is massive, but I still think England can do it.
Love the country
In 2004 we also learnt to embrace the environment. On previous tours we struggled partly because we let external influences get us down.
The food, the traffic, the noise - all of it is in your face. The Indian fans are lovely, kind people, and they also know their cricket, but if you sign one autograph, there are another 1,000 people asking at the same time. The adulation can be too much.
All of these things got to us and as soon as the going became tough on the field we would start whingeing. We blamed the external factors rather than focusing on what we were doing out in the middle.
England have to be able to adapt and embrace the whole package, because the culture and the people in India are wonderful.
From a batting point of view, we realised that in the first 15 minutes you had to score singles. It is difficult at the start of an innings anywhere, but it is doubly so in India. The ball is turning and bouncing and you are wondering: "How am I going to score?"
We found it was all about singles to get your feet going, help you attune to the temperature and rotate the strike so the bowlers, particularly spinners, did not bowl ball after ball at the same batsman and build up pressure. Getting off strike was key, otherwise panic could set in.
This is where England have to prove they have learnt from their mistakes. I have always felt that when England batsmen first go in against spinners they feel like they have to dominate so they can say to everyone: "Hey I can play spin." But that is when they get out. Sure scoring a few boundaries is good but not if you are soon out.
Instead it is about finding momentum by rotating the strike and gauging the conditions. Once you do that the field starts to disperse and all of a sudden you don't have four men around the bat, and life is a little easier; you feel on top, not the bowler.
Spinners must be versatile
For spinners in India my advice is to realise you will be whacked at times. It is about summing up the conditions as quickly as you can.
Some of the wickets they prepare mean you have to bowl faster than normal. On other pitches you will have to bowl slower. The surfaces change so much from city to city so you can't just bowl your normal stuff and think that will be good enough. You have to adapt, concentrate and relish the challenge rather than worry about how good they are at playing spin.
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