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Natwest Series India vs England: Indian Team Preview

India’s tour of England gets underway from today with a practice match against county club Somerset at Taunton. After India’s successful WC campaign and an impressive show by the young brigade in the recently concluded carribean tour,India now will look to carry their winning momentum against the Poms.With the conditions favouring the pacers towards late summer,it surely will be testing times for India’s star studded batting line up.So,before we get started with the real action from 21st at Lords,lets have a look at the strength and weaknesses of this team India which is on a mission to save the numero uno tag.

The squad for India’s tour of England was pretty much according to the script.The only selection which perhaps raised a few eyebrows was that of Abhinav Mukund ahead of regular replacement opener Murali Vijay.One can say that Vijay’s poor run with the willow in the recently concluded WI tour might have led to his axing from the side.That said,the selectors have retained the main nucleus of the team and have truly shown a lot of trust in this side to fare well in the alien conditions of England. So now lets get started and see what the team has in store for us.

  1. Will he be missed?

    Opening woes: In absence of its regular opener Virender Sehwag,India will have to remain content with the new pair of openers in -Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukund. The unavailability of Viru is the biggest worry for this team. He is sure to miss out on the first test at Lords and if team reports are anything to go by then we might not see him play in the second test at Nottingham as well which means young Mukund will be walking out with Gambhir to open the innings. Given the fact that both these players would be playing their first test at England,this definitely is a chink in Indian armour and don’t get surprised if the English bowlers look to take full advantage of this.The onus will surely be on the more experienced Gambhir to give India a solid start in absence of his more aggressive counterpart and if his test records as an opener are anything to go by then expect him to come good this time as well.Gautam Gambhir’s return from injury should help India bring back solidity to the top of the order. It will be a much needed boost for the team as it clearly struggled in this department in the recently concluded WI series. As for mukund,he looked solid enough in the carribean and showed a lot of temperament to hang in there in the middle. Though this time he will be up against a far better bowling attack, he surely has the potential to go a long way in his carrier and in the immediate term ,the English summer.

  2. One Drop-The tale of a stonewaller: Rahul Dravid will surely have mixed feelings when he comes out to bat in the first test at Lords.This was where it all began for the Wall-A gritty innings of 96 on debut, missing out on a deserving hundred and then the fairytale journey to team India. 15 years have passed since then but Dravid continues to be the epitome of grit,patience and technique. Expect Dravid to come good against the pace battery of England provided he doesn’t fall prey to his initial tendency to poke at deliveries pitched in the corridor of uncertainty. That said, Dravid has been one of the most dependable players of team India in the last decade or so and he surely will have to play a major role if India are to come good in this test series.
  3. Two Drop-Sachin”Ton”dulkar: Ever since he made his debut, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has been the cynosure of all eyes. The Master Blaster will come out to bat at Lords  searching for his 100th ton 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 adorn this historic moment in the best possible manner and make it a moment to cherish forver. SRT is clearly enjoying his game and is looking good for another successful stint in the middle.As far as his form is concerned,do I really need to say anything? The only matter of concern is his lack of match practice.After being out of action for close to two months, SRT might look a bit rusty to start with but it certainly won’t be too long before he gets back to his rhythm. Here’s hoping for another magical innings from the Master.
  4. Three Drop-Velvety,Vivacious, Splendid Laxman: India’s crisis man-A player who has maneuvered India’s ship out of choppy waters on innumerable occassions. VVS Laxman-the perrenial saviour of the team seems to be at his best in the face of adversity. There’s very little that VVS Laxman hasn’t achieved in his long international career but a closer scrutiny of his records would suggest that he still is devoid of a hundred at the Mecca Of Cricket-the Lords. He will be etching to get one in this series and given the way he has been batting off late,this shouldn’t be a herculian task for the 123 test veteran.

    35,000 runs between them!

  5. Four Drop-Battle Of Two Southpaws? : This is going to be a tricky choice for the skipper MS Dhoni.With two worthy contenders waiting in the ranks,who should he go with- India’s WC hero and more experienced campaigner Yuvraj Singh or the dynamic youngster Suresh Raina who looked in good touch in the carribean? Given the challenging conditions that prevail there in England,Yuvraj Singh might just get a nod ahead of Raina not just for his experience but also for those slow left armers which come handy in crucial situations. Though Raina will surely be in the scheme of things given the fact that he has graduated to the highest level with some sensible batting in the past against moderate bowling attack.
  6. Five Drop-A gloveman with a Midas touch: The WC winning captain would surely want to add another feather to his cap by leading his band of merry men to glory.Inspite of the fact that, MSD has blown hot and cold after that memorable knock in the finals of the 2011 WC,expect him to come good in this series. He is easily one of the best finishers of  the game in international arena and India would want him to score at a brisk pace and provide that much neede thrust in the latter part of the innings. On the other hand,the bouncy wickets in England mean that MSD needs to spruce up his keeping a bit. A note of caution for MSD-the batsman:”Be careful while poking deliveries at the start of the innings as this has brought about his downfall more often than not”. That said,it is always safe to depend on Captain Cool because he knows what he is doing.
So,the batting unit looks as strong as ever with the only worry being absence of swashbuckling opener- Virender Sehwag and that should cease as soon as he gets fit. Though the likes of Gambhir and Yuvraj are coming after an injury lay-off, they are expected to get back to their grooves quickly and the practice match against Somerset should help them in doing just that.
Bowling Department:The bowling unit of this Indian team undoubtedly is one of the best to have played test cricket.Not just in terms of experience but also in terms of variety, quality and the knack of taking wickets. The comeback of pace spearhead,Zaheer Khan will surely boost the bowling attack of the visitors. He will get able support from the likes of Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar.Sharma had a dream series in the carribean and took the first 10 for of his career. That should boost him to perform well against the Poms. On other hand, Praveen Kumar who was a last minute addition to the squad also fared well in his debut series against WI and gave early breakthroughs to the team with his prodigious swing and amazing control over the red cheery. Add to this list ,the ever so aggressive pacer Sreesanth and Master Of consistency-Munaf Patel and pace battery looks good. And last but not the least,India’s spin sensation Harbhajan Singh-A bowler who joined the elite club of 400 wicket takers recently would be etching to silence his critics by carving out some match winnings spells. So, all in all this attack has all the ingredients of a champion bowling side and we surely can expect them to come hard at their English counterparts.
To be honest, the strengths of this team clearly overshadow it’s weaknesses. A team which has Dravid, Sachin, Laxman sharing close to 35,000 runs between them, a bowler like Zaheer Khan who is righly called the Master Of Disguise and a skipper who always has a trick or two up his sleeves to surprise the opponents should surely come out with flying colours in testing times like these.
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