Was it a case of India underestimating England or being overconfident?
Home advantage in cricket is tipped to be a vital factor in the outcome of a series and most of the times, the home team is believed to have an upper hand, being accustomed to the conditions when compared to the visiting team. One might ask if home advantage overrated. In all likelihood, yes. South Africa went to Australia and beat the home side 1-0 after what was a gruelling series with cricket of the highest standards played by both teams. The same, however, could not be said about the series where England toured India for what was supposed to be a ‘revenge’ for the series whitewash that India were handed out last year in England. The Indians were tipped to beat England comprehensively, even before Captain Cook led his team onto the Indian shores. The story of India’s 8 Test defeats overseas was finally to be overshadowed by beating England at home, but the visitors had other plans.
When England were preparing for their tour to India, much was said about their inability to play in subcontinental conditions and tackle spin specifically, following their debacle against Pakistan and struggle against Sri Lanka. England was also deprived of practise against spinners during their practice games. After the first Test at Ahmedabad, the tone for the series was believed to be set and India were assumed to take an incontestable 2-0 lead in Mumbai after Dhoni called for a rank turner following the first Test, and stocking his bowling department with three frontline spinners.
Dhoni calling for a rank turner would have only meant one thing: the Indians believed that the English would struggle on such a pitch, which would only make their job easier. But as it turned out, Swann and Panesar had the Indian batsmen ensnared in a web of their own. The plan of home advantage was chucked out of the window. In not more than 10 sessions after the Ahmedabad Test, the English cruised to a 10-wicket victory. The same consequence followed in Kolkata, where India was beaten by 7 wickets; a game in which James Andersen showed why he was he such a significant individual in the English side. The England batting unit remained robust throughout the series and was the difference between the two sides along with some inspired bowling by the English. Had India not expected even a fight back from England? They were clearly taken aback once the assault by the Englishmen was put forth.
Was it a case of India overestimating their strength or more likely, underestimating their opponent? That one factor, perhaps, was the difference between the two teams. England didn’t underestimate their ability nor overestimate India’s; they had a good measure of their strengths and weaknesses, made the most of the available resources and paid attention of India’s aptitudes too. All that talk that was made prior to the series and after the Ahmedabad Test took a beating when England broke their 28-year drought of winning a Test series in India.
The Australians must have followed this series and made note of two things specifically: the dominance of England in unfamiliar conditions and the manner of India’s downfall – both which could be imperative in their preparation for the Ashes and their tour to India respectively.