India out to settle scores with England
Ahmedabad - It will be an interesting battle between England batsmen and Indian spinners when the four-match Test series kicks off at Motera stadium here on Thursday.
It is seen as the revenge series for India, who will look to avenge their 0-4 whitewash in England last year. India are expected to do that at home where they have not lost a series since the 2004 loss of 1-2 to Australia.
For England, it will be another opportunity to better their record in the sub-continental nation where they have not won a series in 28 years. The World No. 2 side goes into the contest amid talk of preparing rank turners to unsettle them.
India’s strategy for the Englishmen looks quite clear. They did not field their top tweakers in the three warm-up matches, including the one involving India A.
This puts pressure on Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who are expected to be picked in the playing eleven ahead of recalled Harbhajan Singh.
Dhoni has already played down the possibility of playing three-spinners in the opener.
“If we get a wicket like the one at Kanpur against South Africa (played in 2008), it makes sense to go with a spin-heavy attack,” said Dhoni on the eve of the match, adding that speedster Ishant Sharma will not be part of it owing to viral fever.
The fitness concerns also surround pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, but Dhoni said he and Umesh Yadav are available for selection. Ashok Dinda has been drafted into the side as a cover for Sharma.
Time has come for the formidable looking batting line-up to fire in unison. Gautam Gambhir’s last hundred in the longest format came in January 2010 while his opening partner Virender Sehwag last scored one in November 2010. Sachin Tendulkar has not struck a century since January last year.
Eyes will also be on Yuvraj Singh, who is certain to be picked for the match.
“He (Yuvraj) looks in good shape,” Dhoni said of the all-rounder. “It takes a lot of fitness to score a double hundred. I am hoping that he does not have to field for two days in a comeback game.”
England, on the other hand, will be keen to put up a good show after the disappointment against Pakistan in an away series organised in the UAE.
Many reckon leading the side in India will be the toughest test till date for skipper Alastair Cook. The team has been bolstered with the return of star batsman Kevin Pietersen.
Offie Graeme Swann will shoulder the bulk of the bowling burden on Indian pitches.
Fast bowler Tim Bresnan is likely to feature in the side after Cook confirmed that Steve Finn will sit out due to a thigh strain suffered in the first warm-up game against India A.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay and Ashok Dinda.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Nick Compton, Steven Finn, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Stuart Broad, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Graham Onions, Eoin Morgan, Monty Panesar and Stuart Meaker.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Tony Hill (New Zealand)
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)