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This is India's best chance to conquer England

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England_India_Test_ODI_T20I_CricketTeam India is about to commence one of its toughest challenges in recent times as it takes on England in a tour of three T20Is, three ODIs and five Tests. Virat Kohli and his men know that England is a difficult beast to face in its own den. The fact that India ended up being thrashed 4-0 and 3-1 in the Tests on their last two tours to England will not be forgotten in a hurry.

India has been in great form at home the past few seasons and has decimated all oppositions that came their way, even thrashing England 4-0. Under Virat Kohli, the team has prospered and looks like a fiercely competitive outfit. While they lost the Test series 2-1 in South Africa earlier this year, they were in with a chance in all the matches and went on to win the last match in emphatic fashion.

This Indian team is different. Even though England is a formidable opposition at home, India stand a chance, especially in the Test series. England’s limited overs form is sensational at present and India will have to fight hard to overcome them; their Test form, however, hasn’t been that great, as was evident after their Ashes loss and the recent drawn series against Pakistan.

So while India’s overseas record, especially in England, has not been pretty, this might well be India’s best chance to conquer England in a Test series and bury the ghost of their past two tours here.

England’s wobbly batting order

Over the years, England has consistently dominated visiting teams and their batting has been an important part of this. Recently, though, the chinks in their Test batting order have been exposed.

Their top-order collapses have been regular these days and, barring a couple, most of the batsmen seem out of touch. They have been overly dependent on Alastair Cook and Joe Root – both of whom scored just 117 runs in the Test series against Pakistan. In his last 29 innings, in fact, Cook has only mustered 1,088 runs and that includes two double hundreds. He has been extremely inconsistent and England can’t depend on him to provide solid starts anymore.

The rest haven’t inspired confidence. In the Tests against Pakistan, Ben Stokes managed a paltry 47 runs in two innings, Jonny Bairstow 48 runs in three innings and Dawid Malan 46 runs in three innings. Cook’s partner Keaton Jennings has looked woeful against quality bowling and has a porous defense.

This isn’t a good sign for England, coming into a five Test series. They can’t depend on Joe Root and Jos Buttler to save them every time.

Overdependence on Broad and Anderson

Stuart Broad and James Anderson have been the pace spearheads of England’s bowling for the past decade. Both of them have been simply exceptional, especially in England, and have led the team to countless victories.

The issue is that there hasn’t been much support to the two in recent times. Mark Wood and Chris Woakes were considered for the mantle of third seamer, but haven’t been able to perform to the position. Ben Stokes is struggling with horrible form and Sam Curran looked pretty average in the only Test he played.

Moreover, both Anderson and Broad’s pace has dwindled considerably over the years. England badly needs an out and out pace bowler in their ranks to rattle India. The late UK summer can be hot and dry and that is when the swing of Broad and Anderson could prove to be ineffective. Hence, England is in desperate need of a genuine pacer who can shake things up when needed.

Off-spinner Dominic Bess, while pretty sprightly, doesn’t possess the necessary skills to ruffle the Indian batting lineup, so England would need Moeen Ali to be on top of his game in the upcoming Test series.

India’s all-dimensional bowling unit

For many years, India’s biggest bane on overseas tours was their bowling attack’s inability to take 20 wickets. Some bowlers would do well in patches while others would generally be listless.

The current Indian bowling unit, however, promises to be one of its best ever. It is omni-dimensional and gives India the ability to take 20 wickets regularly, as was seen on the tour to South Africa earlier in the year.

The pace attack is spearheaded by the experienced Ishant Sharma, who has already done well in Tests in England. Then comes Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who seems to be in the form of his life and is easily India’s best bowler. The conditions in England suit Bhuvi perfectly. His swing, seam and the extra yard of pace that he has added to his repertoire could prove to be menacing for the opposition. Moreover, on his last tour here, Bhuvneshwar took 19 wickets in 5 Tests and has a very good idea of what channels to bowl in.

Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami, with their pace, bounce and subtle swing, are good prospects as well. Yadav especially has shown tremendous improvement recently. Jasprit Bumrah displayed great promise in his maiden Test series in South Africa and can be really deceptive. The English pitches will help his bowling and he can be the X-Factor in India’s bowling unit.

In Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India have two great spin bowlers. Although the duo did not have a great time in England on the last tour, they have gone on to become the top spinners of the world at present. Their presence can be key when the opposition is building long partnerships.

In fact, Indian spin legend Anil Kumble believes that the Indian spinners will play a major role on this tour of England. If Ashwin and Jadeja can find form, along with some disciplined bowling by the seamers, England will have a mighty fight on their hands.

India’s best chance

The Test series will be India’s best chance for a victory in England in a long time. The home team is vulnerable after a devastating Test loss at Lord's against Pakistan, which they followed up with an unconvincing victory in the second Test. They are heavily dependent on their top stars and seem to be struggling with their middle-order as well as choosing a settled bowling unit. Yes, James Anderson’s swing and Stuart Broad’s seam and movement will present a real challenge to India. But this time, the Indian team looks much better sorted than England’s.

Even India’s batting has a lot more solidity than the home team’s. Yes, Virat Kohli had a horror run last time, but he has improved exponentially since and one expects him to do a lot better. Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, K L Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara are now all well-established Test batsmen of high pedigree.

To add it, there is the unyielding passion of Kohli the captain, who knows how to push his team to be the best. Kohli is hungry for Test success in England. He knows that this England team can be beaten. His inspiring and aggressive leadership will instill belief and hope in the Indian team even when things aren’t going their way. It is highly unlikely that we will see a result similar to the last two tours.

England needs to be very cautious. India is out to conquer them and this looks a very likely possibility indeed. 

 

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