India vs England 2011: Will the Three Lions roar?
It has been close to 134 years since the first international match was played between England and Australia in 1877 and sadly for a country like England which pioneered the game in its initial stages, the only multi nation tournament trophy they have on their shelves is that of the ICC T20 Championship in 2010, a record in a cricketing format which a certain Geoffrey Boycott would definitely not approve of.
England’s cricketing acumen was never in doubt for they always had players who belonged to the elite level. It was just that when their 11 best county players were put together in a single team, they seemed to falter woefully. Never for a single period in their entire cricketing history were they domineering and most importantly they always lacked the attacking instinct. Yes, they had a Sir Ian Botham, a Colin Cowdrey, a Sir Jack Hobbs, a Jim Laker but all of them were just mere icons of their generations and it was the contribution from the support players that they always lacked. After all it’s the team effort rather than an act of individual brilliance which transforms ‘a team’ to ‘the team’.
All teams which have played international cricket for a long period of time have gone through certain major transformations and luckily for England, one feels they are through this process and that the current crop under Andrew Strauss is the one to look out for — both in the present times as well as the future. The current team have enjoyed an excellent run of form in the last two years and are yet to lose a test series in this timeframe. Incidentally during this period they have also won the Ashes twice. The English Summer has already started off on a positive note for The Poms with a victory against the Sri Lankans and their greatest challenge lies with the arrival of MS Dhoni & co to their territory. The last time these two teams met was in the ICC 2011 World Cup and the rest as they say is history.
For England this series is huge in terms of the development of this relatively young team. They will not only face the No.1 ranked test team in the world but they will also face their inner demons- those demons which love to scratch and ruffle up the Kamran Akmals but somehow are tamed and most of the times show their back to the Dravids and the Laxmans. James Anderson will know that it would be the seam of the thought process rather than the red leather which is going to make the most damage under seaming conditions. Stuart Broad needs to understand that cricket would no longer be his favourite ‘I-pitch-short-you-try-to-hook’ format with four deep fielders on the leg side, but given all of that the best part about this present team is that they have the belief to win from any situation, a point which was well shown by them during their first test match against Sri Lanka when they bowled them out in a mere 24.4 overs during the last session of the fifth day.
The biggest rivalry in this tour against India will nevertheless be between the batting counterparts of both the teams. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott have to be the picks of the lot but the Indians can ill afford to count out players like Eoin Morgan, Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss. The only batsman who has had a troubled time in the last two years has been Kevin Pietersen but he has always been a main stage player and one should expect nothing less from him this series and if he performs big — boy, we have a test series on our hands.
England also have a chance to pip past India in the ICC Test Rankings to the number one spot if they win the series 1-0 or 2-0 but that will be of their least concern for the time being. For now they know they have the perfect team to defeat India, maybe they even know that they are the slight favourites going into the series but at all points of time they will do well to remember that famous reverse sweep played by Mike Gatting in the 1987 World Cup final and the subsequent metaphor it set of as to how an error of judgement can lead to a cursed existence for the rest of the 24 years.
No, not this time.