Steve Harmison is wary about England’s “inexperienced” batting line-up ahead of their tour of India over the coming weeks.
Harmison, who made his Test cricket debut for England against India in 2002, will be part of talkSPORT’s exclusive radio coverage of India v England.
He is particularly unconvinced by Rory Burns’ run-scoring average record and hopes to see more from the Surrey star going forward, but did reserve praise for his mental strength.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Harmison was asked about the quality in England’s batting line-up as things stand.
He said: “I think there’s potential, but I think potential is probably the word at this moment in time.
“I don’t think you can say they’re a balanced unit, a settled unit, I think four and five or three and four, whichever way Ben Stokes and Joe Root play, they’re shoe-ins, they’re bulletproof, but I think the rest are playing for places.
“I’m not a big one on Rory Burns walking straight back into the side. There’s a lot of talk about Burns, people are talking about him as if he’s played 50-60 Test matches and averages 45 – he averages 32.
“That’s nowhere near good enough at any level of international cricket for a top order, top four player. He has to come to the party.
“There’s potential in Dom Sibley, there’s potential in Zak Crawley, who haven’t had the volume of games as what Burns has had and I’d like to think if they both had 21 Test matches, they’d average more than 32.
“There’s a lot of question marks on England’s batting, on the balance of their side. Hence why Joe Root is so key to getting runs because I think there’s a lot of potential in the England batting line-up.
“I like Crawley, Sibley’s mental strength and Burns’ mental strength, but they’ve got to be able to score the volume of runs and this is a big series.”
Looking ahead, Harmison believes England’s promising potential stars must start producing big numbers on a consistent basis, or it could be a long year for Root’s side.
He said: “The Ashes is a long way away, and I think to win an Ashes series you’ve got to have good squad depth, you’ve got to have good confidence, you’ve also got to have wins, and winning is a habit.
“The only way I can see England win in the next 10 Test matches – eight against India, two against New Zealand – they’ve got to score first innings runs.
“If we don’t, we’ll lose. The ability of India, the depth of their top six, the ability of New Zealand, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor and players like that, they will come and score runs and they’ll score first innings runs.
“First innings runs win Test matches. If you don’t get runs on the board, like Australia didn’t in Australia when India beat them, you’ve got no chance of winning.
Harmison is trying to remain upbeat about England’s chances, particularly with Root kick-starting 2021 in such outstanding fashion, but he anticipates a steep learning curve in the weeks to come against India.
“I got some stick when I did the preview show on talkSPORT getting ready for the series.
“As much as I’m positive about England and I love to see England win, I’d like to say 3-1 to India and England win the day-night Test match with a little more movement around with the ball.
“But if we play on pitches which don’t turn a lot, and pitches that are good for batting on, I imagine that’s what we’ll get, I can see it being a very, very difficult six weeks for England.
“If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on India to win 4-0.”
To follow the action from India on talkSPORT 2, download the talkSPORT app, re-tune your DAB radio, listen at talkSPORT.com or tell your smart speaker to ‘play talkSPORT 2’. Coverage of the first Test starts at 3:45am from 5th February, with play from 4am.
Check out our guide to India v England including a full TV and radio schedule.
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