Natwest Series India vs England: Battle Of A Lifetime
If ever the thoughts of overdose of cricket crossed your mind, then be assured that those will subside in the next few days as the much hyped India’s tour of England is finally upon us.
This time, its better, bigger, more intriguing and above all more testing and fascinating than ever before.
After an impressive show by the young brigade in the recently concluded series in the carribean, Dhoni’s men will look to carry their winning momentum against the Poms. Interestingly, England has always been a landmark arena for the Indian team, a stage which has laid the platform for Indians to make a strong statement. Be it the epic 1983 WC win or the debut of two of India’s greatest batsmen, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, England has always provided that much needed launch pad to Indian cricket. And this time, its no different. The numero uno test team will perhaps face the toughest challenge in England post their WC glory. The high profile series is surely going to have its share of defining moments.
Cricket pundits have already begun debating on the various aspects of this series and how it is crucial for the future of team India. It goes without saying that India vs England in a test series is a like for like battle. Both teams have some great pace bowlers, world class spinners, agile fielders, experienced batsmen and add to it the venue and grand occassion and you are guaranteed of a cracker of a series.
Talking about the venue, the test series kick starts with the first test being played at the Mecca of cricket, the Lords, which is incidentally the 2000th test match in international cricket history as well. Couldn’t have asked for a better battle than this to adorn the historical moment! While we wait for the English summer to kick start, lets have a look at what the teams have in store for us.
- Battle of two skippers: Its going to be captain courageous M S Dhoni against captain astute Andrew Strauss. MS Dhoni, on one hand, is going through a purple patch as the leader of Men in Blue and he will surely look forward to keep the winning momentum up and running. A skipper known for his unorthodox style of captaincy and brave on field decisions, Dhoni will certainly have some tricks up his sleeves to surprise the opposition. Facing him is the England skipper, Andrew Strauss, who has played a lion’s share in building the nucleus of this Ashes winning side. Alongwith coach Andy Flower, Strauss has changed the landscape of English cricket and has transformed the side into a winning unit, a unit which plays aggressive cricket and knows the art of winning matches. Be assured of a royal battle when these two magical skippers lock horns.
- Clash of the openers: In absence of Virender Sehwag who will miss the first test at Lords, India is set to welcome its new pair of openers -Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukund. The onus will surely be on Gambhir to give India a solid start in absence of his more aggressive counterpart Viru. Given the conditions, which surely tend to be bowler friendly towards late summer, it promises to be testing times for both young Mukund and experienced Gambhir who incidentally are playing their first test match in England. The England side clearly seems to have the edge in this department with both Cook and Strauss being experienced and technically sound openers. Cook has off late been the run machine for England and has churned out runs at will and most importantly at crucial junctures. Though his partner, captain Strauss, is going through a lean phase but as the saying goes – ”Form is temporary, Class is permanent”. Expect Strauss to come good in this high profile series. So at this stage, its clearly advantage England as far as the opening is concerned.
- Battle of the Top Order Batsmen: One look at both the teams and you would say India clearly seem to have their nose ahead of their English counterparts. Its going to be a mouth watering contest when Dravid, aka The Wall, and Sachin Tendulkar are pitted against their worthy pretenders in Trott and Pietersen. With the kind of experience SRT and Dravid have, they surely look a better bet at 3 and 4 than Pietersen and Trott. But not to forget, Trott has been in the form of his life and with a batting mentality which resembles that of Dravid, he can well be a force to reckon with for England. As for Pietersen, a player who has been more often than not hit hard by injury woes and been burdened by over expectations in his 6 year career, his fluctuating form has been a matter of concern for the Poms. So expect the Indian bowlers especially the pie chucker Yuvraj Singh(*tongue in the cheek*) to exploit his weakness against left arm spin bowling. At this stage, India are better placed than their opponents in this department.
- Battle of the lower middle order: Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior vs VVS Laxman, Raina/Yuvraj, MS Dhoni. This looks pretty even, doesn’t it?
The only man who seperates these two middle orders and gives India a more stable look is the perennial savior – VVS Laxman. The Indian team management will surely be in a dilemma over the no 6 batting slot. With Yuvraj making a comeback in the test squad, it will be interesting to see whether he gets a nod ahead of his younger team mate Raina who proved his mettle as a test player in the recently concluded carribean series. As for Dhoni, he has blown hot and cold after that memorable innings in the WC final, and India will surely want its best finisher to hit back form as quickly as possible. On other hand, we have Ian bell who is a class act himself and has often been involved in many bail out packages for his side,add to this list the swashbuckling southpaw Eoin Morgan and wicket-keeper batsman Matt Prior and it clearly looks a good bet if not the best against an Indian middle order which has a star studded line up.
- Clash of the pacers: This has been one of the most talked about departments in the built up to this series.With conditions preferring the pace bowlers,expect the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar to deliver their best.India’s pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who is coming back after an injury lay off will surely want to get his hands on the red cherry and run through the England top order.Accompanying him most likely will be Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar who have hit a purple patch off late and will surely want to trouble the English batsmen with their swing and bounce. Add to this list,the aggressive pacer Sreesanth and consistent Munaf Patel and this really looks a good bowling attack for the England tour. Offering them a stiff challenge will be their English colleagues led by James Anderson. The force behind which England’s Ashes triumph revolved,James Anderson was superb right through the Australian summer with his pace and variations and will be expected to once again lead England’s charge against India. Assisting him will be super consistent, tall pacer Chris Tremlett who uses his height to great advantage to get that extra bounce on fairly placid surfaces and Stuart Broad/Tim Bresnan who can be more than handy with their ability of striking at crucial moments. It won’t be an exaggration if I claim that there is indeed nothing much to differentiate between the two pace attacks and they seem to be pretty much on even kneel-the one who uses the conditions to good effect will emerge as the victor in this battle of speed.
- Combat of the spinners: Last but not the least, this is the big bang battle. The world’s Number one bowler up against India’s spin spearhead. Its a battle of class and unorthodoxy-A battle between Harbhajan Singh and Graeme Swann. As far as Bhajji is concerned, he has blown hot and cold after the successful WC campaign and INDIA would surely want it’s spin king to get back to wicket taking ways.Bhajji can make the best of the batsmen look childish with his bowling tricks but for that he needs to cater his best performance.Here is a bowler who can reach heights of greatness ”if he wishes to”. After having etched his name in the elite list of 400 wicket takers, Bhajji would surely want to silence his critics with a match winning spell and that he will because he has this knack of giving his best when the going gets tough for him. India might also put to use their surprise package-Amit Mishra who was impressive in the recently concluded carribean series. But with Bhajji around,this seems pretty unlikely unless India decide to go in with 2 spinners. England on the other hand will heavily rely on the numero uno spinner Swann to give breakthroughs at crucial moments in the match. Swann would be desperate to improve his record against India.Stats don’t speak volumes of this man’s ability but INDIA will surely know that they will face a better and more rejuvenated Swann this English summer. Frankly speaking,this series might well be a defining moment in the career of these two off spinners-One trying to find his old touch and the other trying to justify the tag of world’s best bowler. Whether Swann spurs Bhajji or will it be the other way around? Either way this promises to be a cracker of a contest.
Some personal milestones to look out for:
- The Master Blaster searching for his 100th ton will come out to bat at Lords with a billion eyes glued to the TV sets.What an occassion it will be, if he gets to this landmark in the 2000th test match and that too at Mecca of cricket-The Lords. A 100 of 100s will surely embellish this historic moment and make it a momet to cherish forver.
- Harbhajan Singh, INDIA’s spin spearhead is closing in on a 100 tests and will reach that milestone after the end of the test series.
Personal milestones apart,this tour will be a litmus test for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni-A man with a midas touch, Dhoni has been one of the most successful skippers team India ever had. This tour might well be a defining moment in Dhoni’s career. After a successful WC campaign, he surely would want to add another feather to his cap by leading the team to glory in England.
These will also be testing times for youngsters like Abhinav Mukund, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth and Praveen Kumar and will provide them a chance to carve a niche for themselves. This might well be their road to success. So don’t be surprised if we get to see some inspired bowling spells and gritty innings with the willow from these young lads. Their performances in these alien conditions and against a potent team like England might sketch an almost permanent impression in the minds of the selectors and the fans alike.
And last but not the least ,this might be the one last time that we might see the holy trinity-Sachin,Dravid and Laxman come out to bat at the Lords.
Fasten your seat belts now and get ready to witness the battle of two cricketing giants.This is a series where the boys will be seperated from the men-A series which might well certify India’s numero uno test rankings.It is undoubtedly going to be an arduous task for the Men in Blue but with an united team effort ,India can surely come out with flying colours.What more can i say? Bring it on India and England.The cricketing fraternity is waiting with bated breath to witness some seriously competitive cricket.
The countdown has begun!!!!!
Heres wishing MSD and co all the very best for the tour!