India England Natwest Series Preview
The series begins with a landmark for test cricket. Test cricket turns 2000 matches old on July 21 2011 and is there any other better place than the home of cricket – Lord’s cricket ground. Will the 2000th test create more interest in the 5 day format is what the cricket fans will be looking for and both England and India are expected to put up a competitive show and a result. A great match-up of batsman against bowlers is very well to be seen and also a great series between a team (England) who has not lost a test match since 2009 and a team (India) who has not lost a series since then.
The 2000th test also marks the birth of the Decision Review System unanimously. This series is not only going to be a test for the rankings but also to the development of DRS. So now with DRS agreed, England can no longer complain on the defensive approach Indians might take against Swann.
With the stalwarts of the Indian team returning back after injury/rest, they are under pressure to get back to their form soon and even more urgent after a depleted squad won both the ODI and test series against West Indies.
With England performing well in the just concluded series against the world cup finalist, they are very well ready to upset the world champions who as well hold the top ranking in test cricket. England is a tough side any day at home and for India to win, it depends on how they get used to the conditions quickly, given the number of warm-up games planned. Going by the idea to retain their test ranking, it looks better if India knows the target and hence it’s better to chase. At the same time, its worse if India allows England to bat and if Strauss and Cook join hands afresh. Strauss can very well be removed if there are 4 to 5 active slip fielders and with a Ishant Sharma wide angle delivery. But Cook, he must be made to make mistakes. May be Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni has to combine. But even then misery for India is not over with Trott and Pietersen lining up. And how about a short cameo from Ian Bell or Matt Prior or Eoin Morgan? But India are not short or resources to keep wickets tumbling. Headed by the spear-head Zaheer Khan along with the inspiring performers of Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar fresh out of a Caribbean attack and with able support from Harbhajan Singh who is currently with a revived ambition post his 400 test wickets, India are capable of collapsing the English batting line-up. Not to forget the occasional swing from Sreesanth. When he gets going then it’s his day. Munaf Patel adds depth to the bowling department with his slow pace.
With Dhoni being a cool and different kind of a captain, chances are that he might choose to take up batting if coin tosses in his favour. The vulnerability of Indian batsmen against short pitched deliveries is well known and the English pitches are equally well known to support pace and bounce (otherwise with curator support to create a flat dry bed as in the final Eng vs. SL ODI at Manchester). With England seamers hungry, every Indian player is expected to be amidst a flurry of bouncers. The new kid on the roll – Jade Dernbach is fierce and attacking. His Yorkers can dismantle any guarded stump. Added to this is the inform Tim Bresnan. When these two start firing, England doesn’t even need James Anderson. Though Dernbach has not played a test and Bresnan not being a regular for the test side, Tremlett fills their place in the five day squad. He has been at his menacing best in the just concluded series against Sri Lanka. One loop hole here is the struggling Stuart Broad. But let’s not forget that any out of form player would definitely get back to his prime playing a series against India. This has been the case many a times and so if at all England selectors pick up Stuart Broad in the squad then definitely he is going to make a come back.
With the series beginning at Lord’s, there can be no better motivation for the visitors to start with a win with the Lord of cricket crowning his untouchable records. A 52nd test century and getting to a century of centuries in 21 year old international career will always be special for any cricketer including Sachin Tendulkar to achieve at Lord’s. But for Tendulkar to take up the crease, Dravid and Laxman should pave way but it’s difficult to unsettle them when the two get together. I’m sure by now every other cricketing nation would have found ways to desperately get both Dravid and Laxman out. If not a similar kind of stumping as Carlton Baugh, how about a new way of handling the ball where the wicket keeper takes the unplayed delivery and hands that over to the batsman.
With Virender Sehwag not making the squad for the first test and still in doubt for the following, burden is now on Gautam Gambhir to keep runs flowing. He will also need to get going with a new partner in Abhinav Mukund if he finds a place in the playing XI (Dhoni might opt for Dravid to open to include both Raina and Yuvraj in the playing XI). Even if it cannot be accepted, the fact is that Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are touring England one final time. So these 3 from the Fab 5 (including Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble) will look forward to make an impression one final time. With Dravid and Laxman proving their skills in the tough Windies pitches, all eyes will be on Tendukar for his landmark century (hope he doesn’t lose his wicket to yet another debutant if Dernbach gets the nod ahead of Broad).
With India having battled against South Africa just the last year end and with England not far behind South Africa in the test rankings, this series can once again be considered the battle among top teams for the top ranking. India has an upper hand though with one of the strongest batting line-up and inform seamers. This is going to be yet another stern test for India and such kind of tests are often needed to make test cricket survive.
Few Records waiting to tumble in the series
1. Test Match # 2000
2. Century of international centuries for Sachin Tendulkar
3. Rahul Dravid is just 49 runs short to overtake Ricky Ponting as the 2nd highest run getter in tests
4. Sachin Tendulkar needs 308 runs for 15000 runs in tests
5. Kevin Pietersen needs 172 runs for 8000 test runs and 267 runs for 4000 ODI runs
6. Virender Sehwag needs 306 runs to reach 8000 test runs and 240 runs to reach 8000 ODI runs and 8 wickets for 100 ODI wickets
7. Jonathan Trott needs 133 for 2000 test runs
8. Yuvraj Singh needs 361 runs for 2000 test runs and needs one more half century to get to the count of 50 in ODI
9. Zaheer Khan need 29 wickets to reach 300 test wickets mark
10. James Anderson needs one more ODI wicket for a tally of 200
11. Graeme Swann needs 10 wickets for 150 test wickets
12. S Sreesanth needs 21 wickets to reach 100 test wickets mark
13. Chris Tremlett needs 5 more to reach 50 test wickets
14. Harbhajan Singh needs to play 4 test matches to reach 100 cap mark