Preview - England versus India Test Series
A few sleeps more and we will arrive at a mouth watering series. Touted as a clash to decide who is number 1 in Tests. So with this in mind lets get our surgeons scalpel out and duly dissect the main players involved and the key issues.
England’s Likely Line Up
1. Andrew Strauss (C)
The English skipper has had his struggles of late. Most notably with left arm bowlers, which is not a good thing when you are facing India in the knowledge that their spearhead is a very fine left hander in Zaheer Khan. A bowler that has a reputation of being a nightmare to left handed batsmen.
There is no question that Strauss is a good enough player to overcome this issue and be a key factor, but the query is will he?
That is the query on many pundits lips and could be a key factor in the series
The man that is doing his best impersonation of Don Bradman with his batting dominance. Are we duly impressed, definitely, but are we sold on him being as good as his recent figures indicate, well maybe not. I say this in the knowledge that Cook has dominated against Teams in Australia and Sri Lanka with truly dreadful bowling attacks. So though you can applaud his performances, it also needs to be put in context.
Last year against a very fine Pakistani attack he struggled mightily and in his 7 innings in the series. He was dismissed by left arm swing bowlers 4 times
You think this might bring a smile to Zaheer Khan’s face?
3. Jonathan Trott
Truly indestructible and the key to England’s batting. He grinds bowling attacks with the fact that he is such a mental giant when you take him on by the amount he takes out of you. He can play a traditional defensive knock where he can make Ken Barrington look like a speed demon or branch out and attack with the best of them.
His exceptional performances at three and his style of play makes all the batsmen improve by the pressure he takes off them.
4. Kevin Pietersen
The English enigma….
I say this for at his best his is a batsman that has few peers. For the profound damage he can do, but when he is off he is average to be polite. The last two innings against Sri Lanka showed his potential in the very refined manner he played. Though then he was wasted by being played in meaningless Odi’s when he would have been better served playing First Class Cricket.
You can’t predict Pietersen with any surety, but all you can do is what every one does. Show him the respect for what he might do…….
For that has the certainty to dazzle while it devastates…..
5. Ian Bell
The man touted for a long time as being England’s next big thing in batting. Now we are starting to dispel the hype and bask in that reality. A beautiful player to watch in a classical sense with all the shots and equally adept against pace or spin. Now that he has developed the mental strength to compliment his obvious talent. He has the potential to establish himself as one of the best batsmen in the game.
A player India needs to pay the highest respect too
6. Eoin Morgan
A very unorthodox batsmen that with his attacking intent is a real difference maker coming in at 6. He can play all the orthodox shots and then some outlandish shots that have to be seen to be believed. A typical flashy player, but where he differs from that type is he has a real substance and grit about him. A mental toughness that is making many to believe that he could be a very succesful long term Test player
Like the other English left handers a real test for him will be Zaheer Khan though……..
7. Matt Prior
Fantastic player and very underrated player being on timeless occasions England’s Mr Fixit in a crisis. He has transformed himself from being a real liability as a gloveman to be a very adequate keeper. As a batsman is refined enough to bat in any Teams top 6 and be regarded as a very complete player. In this knowledge it always gives England the opportunity if they so please to move Prior up to 6 and play 5 bowlers
A key component of the English Team and his expertise in his keeper/batsman role makes you reminisce of an icon from the past in Allan Knott
8. Stuart Broad
In no way deserving of his place in the Team for his bowling against Sri Lanka and in the Ashes previously was rubbish to be polite. He is a very adequate batsmen, but England hardly need this from it’s bowlers. Strangely for a back room staff of the expertise of England’s they are enamoured with Broad for some reason. To such an extent that they overlook very fine bowlers in Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn
Hopefully for English fans Broad rewards this faith, but there is little to believe in this churlish and immature player
9. Graeme Swann
This big hearted off spinner reputation as being the best spinner in the game is more an indictment in the sad lack of quality of the Worlds spin stocks. Rather than testimony to Swann’s quality. His record is very impressive, but skewed somewhat by his lack of games against Asian opposition. Who for the most part dominate spinners.
The Indian’s are every spinners nightmare and how Swann fares against them will go along way to determining the series.
10. James Anderson
The spearhead of the English attack and a truly lethal bowler when the ball swings. He used to be a bowler viewed as needing this to be successful. For when it didn’t swing he used to be treated with disdain by batsmen. Though as his career has matured he has added more strings to his bow and is now a more complete bowler. How he performs in this series is crucial especially now with Virender Sehwag out. It will allow him to bowl at a less threatening Indian top order.
11. Chris Tremlett
The gentle giant is suddenly showing signs of turning the devastating potential that good cricket judges knew he had into performance. He of late has been lethal with the natural unnerving bounce that his 6’8 height allows coupled this with his pace and cut off the wicket and you have a very complete bowler
India (Likely Team)
An exceptional young complete batsman from both a defensive and attacking perspective and finished off by a real mental toughness. The pressure will fall on him considerably now that his opening partner is out for most of the series in Virender Sehwag. How he performs will be crucial for India for their is doubts over his new partners Abhinav Mukund’s pedigree in the game at this point. Then also a few lingering doubts over Rahul Dravid and whether he is declining.
So if England get on top of Gambhir it will be a huge blow in the series
2. Abhinav Mukund
One of India’s much hyped generation next batmen that struggled for the most part in his debut tour in the West Indies. The West Indies bowling was quite impressive, but it hasn’t the class and calibre of the English attack. So at this point in his career this young Indian might be seriously over matched in this series. Offering England an obvious weakness to victimise and try to get an advantage over India.
Conversely if Mukund can find a way to contribute it will be a huge bonus for Team India
3. Rahul Dravid
A great player that has had recent question marks over whether his star is starting to dim with age. How this quandary plays out will have a huge bearing on the outcome of the series. For if he is the Dravid that is revered, well it will allow the pressure to come off the exceptional players in the Indian middle order. Allowing them to dominate as they often do. Though if Dravid is found out and the middle order comes in under pressure it changes the whole complexion of the series.
Sachin is Sachin need we say more?
He is the Peter Pan of cricket in regards to not being effected by age and instead getting better with it. The only question you pose over Tendulkar is whether he will simply be a fine player within the series or indeed if he will dominate it.
Tendulkar’s effect on the series could be a key in who wins it
5. VVS Laxman
The best finisher in the Test arena and a player that when there is a crisis has ice in his veins.
His form in the last few year has been exceptional and there is no reason why he can’t have a huge effect on this series with his class. He has no weakness and is equally adept against pace or spin. So how he goes will have a huge bearing on India’s prospects in the series.
6. Suresh Raina
A player of immense talent, but with a question mark over where these talents are best suited to Odi’s/T20 and as such won’t stand up in Test. He has been found out in the initial parts of his career, but against the West Indies he played some very decent knocks. Against England in England is a considerable step up in class. So whether he can be a factor has a definite question mark over it.
7. M.S.Dhoni (C)
The Indian leader and a devastating lower order batsmen
That of late has got some criticism for his on field behaviour and defensive Captaincy. Irregardless of this, Dhoni is a player capable of having a profound effect on a series with his late order cameos with the bat. These often devastating cameos can have a profound effect on an opposition and a series.
Thus England need to tread warily around this Adonis like Indian
An off spinner that has precocious talent, but is very much diminished in his main role in the Team. Often chided as being a batsmen that bowls occasional spin. Like in the case of Stuart Broad in England’s line up, India hardly needs a number 8, whose role is to bowl well, who instead is better known for his batting.
If Bhahji can in any way revisit his past effectiveness as an off spinner. It will provide a huge lift to India and complete it’s bowling line up.
Though on what we have seen recently, faith in this fine Indian bowler is fast diminishing and his very role in the Team is under question.
9. Praveen Kumar
This big hearted swing bowler is an intriguing prospect as we look at this series. For he has all the attributes with his swing and smart use of seam to be a huge success in English condition. Very much a style of bowler reminiscent of the Aussie Terry Alderman. Who was devastating in England.
If he can emulate Alderman, it could quite literally be the sincerest ace up India’s sleeves.
10. Zaheer Khan
The big hearted and very accomplished Indian spearhead.
Who is a master of both conventional and reverse swing and here in conditions that are touted to be bowling conditions could be truly devastating. Also a master against left hand batsmen for which England have a few crucial ones.
In this series he is one player who could define it’s outcome
11. Ishant Sharma
A young bowler of immense potential that in the West Indies showed when he was charged with the responsibility of leading the attack that he is starting to mature. He was so damaging with the combination of his unnerving accuracy, natural bounce and lethal movement off the pitch. That he duly won the player of the series.
The performance though very impressive has to be put into context by the fact that the West Indian batting was embarrassingly weak. So though he earnt many wickets. His performance was made to look better by the amateurish batting.
He won’t get that against a very accomplished English batting line up, but if he can show the same form he will still be a huge factor in the series.
The Key Factors In The Series
The series is on our doorstep and the class in the Teams has all our respect, but the mindset of the Teams Captains has all our derision. This because of how ultra defensive they both are. As seen in their ridiculous fields, all round tactics and game killing declarations. All showing little or no pro active intents.
This is ok in series against lesser oppositions where you will be confident of class prevailing. Though in a clash that is as evenly matched on paper as this one. A Captain that shows some attacking intent might be the decisive factor in the series
2. The Pitches and Conditions
Against any other Team but India, you’d say that bowling favourable condition would be a huge advantage for the home Team. Though India’s batting is exceptional, so it will pose them no issues and then the effect on it’s bowling will be pronounced. In regards to making it more effective.
So in essence you might have a case that the home conditions will be more beneficial for the away Team.
3. The Sehwag Effect For India
Automatically before a ball is even bowled India’s depth will be sorely tested by the absence of their top order mauler Virender Sehwag and the effect it has on their line up. Then of greater concern is how the openers struggled in the Caribbean and if that continues here and they are forced to make a change with Sehwag still unavailable.
What would they do?
They either keep an under performing player in the line up or replace him with a make shift opener. Both options are fraught with danger.
4. Can Graeme Swann Be Effective Against India?
The English off spinner has been stellar for about 18 months and by this fact has made the English bowling line up a very complete one. Whether it has been as a wicket taker or in a defensive role creating opportunities for bowlers at the other end
Swann has been stellar.
Though against India all this is irrelevant for they destroy the very best of spinners as Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidaran will attest too.
How Swann deals with the Indian’s or more accurately how the Indian’s ‘deal’ with Swann will be key
For if he can be his normal stellar self or at worst a tight bowler who pinches a wicket here and there it will be adequate for England. Though if India takes him to the cleaners to the extent where they just milk him or even worse make it so there is no confidence in Strauss bowling him.
It will take away a key England weapon and with it a huge chance of winning the series.
The Teams are very evenly matched on paper with India having an advantage on the batting side of things and England on the bowling side.
Though the fact that it is a series in England, where the home Team is very difficult to beat and then the absence of Virender Sehwag. Which has a profound impact on the Indian Team with how it changes their line up and oppositions approach to them.
This gives England a definite edge in the series
So I favour England to win 2/1