Why England might win the series
The current Indian test team is ranked No 5 and England No 2. It has lost 2 of its best batsmen, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, to retirement. The players left in the squad are Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and some new comers and some non- performing heroes of Indian cricket. This is the state of affairs in batting department. Sachin can also be included in the non-performing list, but he is a God in India and he cannot be replaced and will play on till he wants to play and might even end up playing with his son in the Indian team in the future.
To win a test match, we not only require batsmen who can fire when required, but also some useful bowlers who, if not great wicket takers like the great West Indian and Australian fast bowlers, can at least break partnerships and clean up the tail of the opposition. In this regard, India is blessed with bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Ravi Ashwin and even Pragyan Ojha, who can take wickets at least in test matches and can win matches for India. But is this bowling line-up really enough to disturb the English apple-cart?
Now looking at the English team, their batting department is full of run accumulators starting from Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Eoin Morgan and a freak named Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen, better known as KP, can change the complexion of any game of cricket if he is at full flow. Also, England’s tail has always been very stubborn to say the least. Their bowling also has lot of teeth in it, starting from Anderson, Broad, Finn, Onions and Bresnan, who are wicket taking fast bowlers. Their strike rate for getting wickets is very low which indicates that the numbers are good. Then there is Graeme Swann, who is more of a conventional off-spinner who does not bowl the doosra and still if one looks at his record, one will be startled to see that, for an Englishman, his record is awesome.
Considering all these facts and current form, the English as a whole looks far better on paper than the Indian team.
We will just look at the venues where we are going to play the test matches. The first test is at Ahmedabad, a venue that many feel favours India just because it is a spinning wicket. But if you look at the pitch generally, it cracks down after the second day and starts aiding the spinners. Also, the point to be noted here is the cracks help the fast bowlers as well if they are willing to put the ball in the right areas. Javagal Srinath took 6-21 in 1996 in this stadium against South Africa, who were chasing a small target and were bundled out for 106. Srinath said that the pitch was helpful for fast bowlers, if you put the ball in the right areas where the cracks are present. Also on the batting front, the English have learnt their lessons from their past failures on how to tackle spin, as the results show in Sri Lanka, where they drew the series 1-1. If there were more number of test matches in Sri Lanka they would have won the series there. So, there is high possibility of an English win in Motera, Ahmedabad.
Coming to the Second test at Mumbai, where the pitch helps all type of bowlers and the batsmen who succeed here are the ones who are ready to grind it out. Right now in the Indian Test squad , there is no other batsmen except for Cheteshwar Pujara who is willing to put his head down and bat just like Rahul Dravid has done in the past. Also, England have won a test match here in 2006, so they will be confident of repeating the same.
The third test is at Eden Gardens, where generally the pitch aids the spinners and the general perception is that Eden Gardens is a dust bowl after the first 3 days. The first 3 days are good for batting. So there will be equal opportunities for both the sides here. The fourth test is at Nagpur and this venue is historically a batting paradise with little help for fast bowlers and slow turn for spinners. Hence, there are more chances of this match being a draw. Watch out for Cook who batted brilliantly on debut here and scored a century.
Overall, the verdict of this series might be 2-1 or a 2-0 win for the English team, considering that they have a very good chance of winning in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, might lose or draw in Kolkata and draw in Nagpur. But the hardcore Indian fan is totally absorbed by the Indian team’s greatness and might feel that this series might be all India’s and England does not stand a chance. Come November 15th, the Indians could be taken by an yet unnamed English storm.