England's mission im-possible
John Robert Wooden, an American basketball player and coach, once quoted, “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” In any sport, it is very important to be used to winning, and the England cricket team has performed brilliantly in the past year or so, specially in the Test arena. But the biggest question which arises here is – can Alastair Cook embrace the unique cricket culture to be the first captain to win a Test in India since 2004?
A lot has been said about England‘s weakness against spin bowling, but Alastair Cook and Co are very confident that they will put on a good show, and they have been trying to convince everyone through press conferences and “bold” statements. But Boycott said recently, “I don’t think they have convinced themselves. Nobody in their right mind can back England.”
The newly-laid wicket at the Motera stadium is expected to assist spin over the five days, and will suit a home team desperate to avenge the 4-0 humiliation in England last year.
In my view, there are five good batsmen of spin bowling in this English line up: Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, along with Matt Prior, who’s been in great form over the past one year or so. These batsmen would have to lead from the front and take the responsibility of ensuring a good first innings score, as the ball doesn’t spin too much in the first innings of a Test match.
Cook, Trott and Bell will take up the role of batting session after session. On the other hand, Kevin Pietersen, along with Matt Prior, would look to play aggressively – these two batsmen would be England’s counter-attacking options.
After Andrew Strauss’ retirement, England would have to chose between Joe Root and Nick Compton for the opening spot along with Alastair Cook. This will be a big test for both these batsmen; starting your Test career in India is not easy. Playing against the quality spin of Ashwin and Ojha will be a big test for both these batsmen.
England’s fast bowling is their biggest strength at home, but things will be different here. James Anderson, spearhead of England’s pace battery, has been comparatively less effective in subcontinent conditions, and he’ll be under huge amount of pressure, as England will rely heavily on him to give early breakthroughs.
In-form Steve Finn, who was the pick of the bowlers for England against Pakistan in UAE, will miss the first Test match due to injury, and this is a big blow for the English side.
Stuart Broad has also picked up an injury in the first practice game of the tour, but he’s expected to play in the first Test match. Broad’s record in India has been ordinary so far, and he will be under huge pressure to perform.
Graeme Swann will be the most lethal weapon for England on these turning wickets, and he’ll be the “go-to” man for Alastair Cook to take wickets and break partnerships. He might be whacked at times, and it will be important for him to sum up the conditions as quick as he can. He would have to adapt, concentrate and relish the challenge, rather than worry about how good the Indians are at playing spin. He is a quality spinner, and a lot will rest on his shoulders in this series.
If England can play their best cricket, they do stand a realistic chance of winning this series. It will be a big test, but not impossible. England have got the class, talent, experience, youth and most importantly, they have the will to win. This English side has prepared well, and now it’s all about going there and implementing the plans. I hope it’ll be a cracker of a series and we’ll get to see exciting cricket played with good spirit.