sport

Gifford: Spin future not bright

Former England spinner Norman Gifford is concerned by the lack of quality slow bowlers in the county game.

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar shared 19 wickets during the victory over India in last week's second Test in Mumbai and are expected to again be in tandem for the next encounter in Kolkata starting on Wednesday.

But Gifford, who played in 15 Tests and took 2,068 first-class wickets, is looking to the future and sees a dearth of top-class spinners in the domestic game.

He said: "Our performance (in the current series) has been brilliant but what slightly worries me is do we have the depth behind Swann and Panesar? I don't think we have at the moment.

"You've got young Danny Briggs, who has done well, you've got Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire, George Dockrell at Somerset, and the young Simon Kerrigan at Lancashire.

"But, when you look at the 18 counties, there are not many spinners playing in first-class cricket."

Gifford, who also captained England in two one-day internationals, hopes youngsters will take inspiration from Swann and Panesar.

He said: "It's not just Test cricket. Spinners play a big part in one-day and Twenty20 international cricket as well.

"They have been as effective as anyone. But I'm hoping the kids will look at Swann and Panesar and think 'there is an opportunity now if I work hard' and we will start to produce a few more spinners in county cricket."

Gifford believes the lack of spin-assisted wickets in county cricket is a factor.

He said: "When I first start, there were uncovered wickets and you'd go into a game with at least two spinners, an off-spinner and a left-arm spinner.

"You got wickets that turned as well, at places like Cheltenham and Swansea for example, so you had to have that balance in your attack - and we've lost that a little bit."

Gifford has spoken with Panesar and had words of encouragement after he lost his place in the England set-up.

He said: "I've had a chat with Monty once or twice. He wasn't playing in Test cricket then and I said 'just keep going mate and your chance will come again'.

"I said 'we haven't got many spinners around and if we go to places where we need two, you will be in'.

"He had a great start and a bit of a lean time and people were knocking him. He's kept going and managed to get an opportunity now again and has got a lot of wickets."