India Get Ready to Face England in 'Revenge Series'
By Denzil Fernandes
Nov 12: After the merciless massacre of the Indians in England when they toured there in 2011 ending with a 4-0 whitewash of the visitors, there are rays of hope and sunshine which give a feeling that England too will be paid back in the same fashion.
Without doubt, the forthcoming 4 tests in India followed by 2 Twenty 20 matches and 5 One Day Internationals will be watched with great interest by followers of both teams. The first Test starts on 15th November in Ahmedabad, 2nd Test on 23rd November in Mumbai, 3rd Test on 5th December in Kolkata and fourth and final Test on 13th December in Nagpur.
India will be in with a huge chance to win with home advantage coming from the tailor made pitches which are likely to favour the spinners. Knowing the weakness of England against quality spin, India’s star spinner R. Ashwin should be hogging the headlines in each and every Test. For that matter, if the pitch takes a turn, England may also find their star spinner Graeme Swann among the wickets. England have also come with two more spinners in Samit Patel and Monty Panesar to back Swann if the conditions demand. In all probability, the Test series looks like a spinner’s war between the two sides. India surely holds the advantage with superior spin bowlers.
As far as the pace department is concerned, England seems to have the edge. They have in James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, and Stuart Broad quality bowlers who can rattle the opposition. Big Bresnan and Anderson along with Broad have always starred for England in the past and one expects them to spearhead the bowling attack. For India, Zaheer Khan will have to do the hard work along with Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma to support. Virhat Kohli is also available to support as a change bowler with his gentle pace. There is no point in loading the team with a third fast bowler and weakening the batting. Zaheer and Yadav should be enough to handle the routine pace attack before the spinners take over. Spin will be the key and part time bowlers like Yuvraj and Sehwag will come in handy to support Ashwin and Ojha. The selectors have also decided to include veteran Harbhajan to support with his experienced spin, but the final eleven will depend on the condition of the pitch.
It will not be as easy as it looks for India skipper Dhoni and his boys though. England have prepared themselves well for the tour of India with a training camp in Dubai earlier on their way to India. In Dubai, they were given conditions and facilities similar to those they may expect on their tour of India. Prior to the Test, they have played three warm up matches which should help them to get ready for the battle ahead. England main coach Andy Flower is a shrewd planner and has managed the team successfully. Likewise, they are also travelling with former Pakistan leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed who will be guiding the spinners. In a bid to strengthen the side, they have called back Kevin Pietersen who was not selected in the original party due to some problems with the management. After settling the matter, Pietersen is now going to be a thorn for India due to his knowledge of Indian pitches and the Indian players having played plenty of cricket in the country. England skipper Alastair Cook is also a good opener who can be relied to marshal his resources with telling effect. Alastair has special interest in this series as captain since he made his Test debut in India. "Both sides have world class players. It's going to be a fantastic series to watch. Whichever team handles the conditions better will win the series," said the England skipper, who had made his Test debut with a half century and an unbeaten ton at Nagpur six years ago. "Clearly the history shows how hard it is (to win in India). It's been 30 years (since England won a Test series in India). That's the sort of challenge we have ahead of us”. England beat India with a 2-1 Test series victory in 1984-85 under David Gower which was the last time series win for England in India.
No Indian player can take anything for granted and any slip up will cost them the series for sure. They have to pull their socks up and realise the seriousness of the mission ahead against England. Both openers, Sehwag and Gambhir are yet to put up a commanding partnership of late and the selectors may well give them a ‘shout’ to improve their performance. There is Tamilnadu’s Vijay along Pujara in the squad for the first two Tests while Raina, Mukund and Badrinath who were all hoping for a place have missed selection at least for the first two tests. If the openers flop, the trio will surely come into the reckoning. Rahane has been selected for the first two Tests and will probably be among the reserves in the first Test.
In the batting vacancies arising due to the retirement of Dravid and Laxman, the selectors can surely look at dependable Pujara while there are so many other youngsters like Manoj Tiwary, Rayudu, Shikhar Dhawan, Badrinath and Mukund. One batsman who has failed to deliver is Rohit Sharma who will now be required to work his way back after playing in the Ranji Trophy matches for Mumbai. Dhoni did give him plenty of chances but somehow the youngster failed to grab those opportunities. One thought that young India Under-19 captain Unmukt Chand would be given a chance to be with the senior squad. But that will probably take time unless he forces his way into the team with a few good knocks in the Ranji matches for Delhi.
Reliable Raina has not been favoured by the new selectors and will have to impress them to gain a spot in the Test side. In the same vein, well healed Yuvraj Singh has batted and bowled himself into the team with a fine all round performance against England in the first warm up game. He stroked a fine 59 in 80 balls (with sever fours and four sixes) and also grabbed 5 wickets for 94 runs in the warm up game against England in the first warm up game. This performance apart from a double century earlier in the Duleep Trophy confirmed his selection for the Test side.
In the bowling department, there is India’s old horse Zaheer Khan who will be nearing the end of his career just as the series ends. Having served India so well as a pace bowler, the series against England will probably be one of his last for India unless he manages to grab wickets and stay fit to play against Pakistan and Australia later. Young Umesh Yadav and Ishant will be required to support Zaheer if they make the final eleven. It is surprising that the selectors have risked by picking Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma who may not be able to last the five days ! Surely, with Umesh Yadav at the helm they could have taken Dinda and Irfan. After all, more than the pacers, it will be our spinners who will be vital for our success.
The bowling aspirants like Dinda, Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Mithun , Balaji and several others are all waiting in the queue for a call possibly later in the series. Poor Irfan Pathan will be required to wait and again use the Ranji matches to stake a claim. He should have been there at least as a back up.
One big Indian cricketer who will be required to crack the whip and show his presence and unquestioned class will be Sachin Tendulkar. He, like Zaheer Khan, will also be almost at the end of his playing career and may target England to exhibit his batting for one last time brilliantly and script India’s wins. He is overdue for a big knock and there is no better time than now for the mumbaikar to score and say ‘bye’ to cricket for ever. In the recent Champions League Twenty 20 cricket tournament in South Africa he failed to click and one hopes that his flow of runs will re start in his own country against England. There is no better joy to watch cricket than seeing Tendulkar batting in full flow at the crease. England will surely be worried if he gets back to form and hammers their bowling. One was pleased with his hundred against Railways earlier in the week while playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy match. Sehwag too got a ton against Uttar Pradesh earlier which should brighten India’s batting prospects.
All in all, Dhoni’s boys have a stern task cut out to stop England from recording a rare series win in India under Alastair Cook. How well will they rise to the occasion only the forthcoming Test series will tell. In the end, from all indications it looks like India are likely to prevail with their strong batting and spin attack.
Barring a couple of minor injury scares to Finn and Broad in their warm up matches, England under Alastair Cook look good to give a royal battle to their hosts when the Tests commence. The home supporters will hope for a 4-0 clean sweep but only positive and winning action in the middle by Dhoni’s boys can assure that.
The Indian team which has now been finalized by the selectors for the first two Tests is : MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Zaheer Khan
England will be picked for the four-match Test series against India from: Alastair Cook (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell , Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Nick Compton, Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Eoin Morgan, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Joe Root, Swann and Jonathan Trott