England skipper Alastair Cook is wary of the challenge that awaits his side in the upcoming five-match Test series against India admitting that the hosts have the upper hand but is hopeful that a speedy recovery for pace spearhead James Anderson can help them achieve a repeat of the unlikely series victory achieved last time they toured India in 2012.
India have not lost a Test series at home since going down to the Alastair Cook-led side almost four years ago and has looked unstoppable in home conditions as showcased by the 3-0 whitewash the visiting New Zealand side received recently. Cook admitted that his England side are the clear underdogs heading into the series but is also confident that they can spring a few surprises along the way.
"It's a big challenge. Any time you play the No. 1 or the No. 2 ranked team in their backyard, who are very comfortable in their conditions, it's a huge task for us. It's a huge challenge to these guys who have not played a huge amount of cricket in the subcontinent as a group," said Cook. "These are different conditions, but being underdogs takes a lot of pressure off us."
"What this side has done over the last couple of years is to exceed expectations in big series’. We have played really good cricket in big series’. Last year, we went to South Africa and won away from home when they were No. 1,” Cook added, reflecting upon his side’s chances in India.
Much of the visitor’s chances will depend on the fitness of Anderson, who has been given the go-ahead by the ECB medical team to join up with the side ahead of the series opener at Rajkot. Though the match beginning on Wednesday will be too early for Anderson, the 34-year-old’s experience of playing in India over three tours in 2006, 2008 and 2012 is expected to come in handy for his fellow fast bowlers.
Having picked up 22 wickets in his 7 Tests so far in India, Cook knows how vital Anderson is for England but also added that the spin-friendly conditions in the Indian sub-continent, that England fell prey to in the recent Test series against Bangladesh, means plenty of thought needed to be put in before the playing eleven is named.
"We have got some big selection calls to make but the process has started like always when you know two games (in Bangladesh) have happened," said Cook. "(It's) really good news about Anderson. He has worked hard to get back. He's got the all clear. Just chatted with him yesterday and the day before. (Him playing in the) second Test (at Vizag) is a good possibility.
“We will know more after seeing how his body reacts. His experience of these conditions and the number of wickets he has got in all types of conditions will only help the other guys,” Cook added.