While there is no historic rivalry between India and England on cricket field at least (considering Lagaan was strictly a feature film), the No 1 ranking at stake, both the sides will make sure that a new chapter in cricket history is written.
Rohit Sharma comes of age, Virat Kohli wants to take responsibility, Amit Mishra bamboozles batsmen against whom, a depleted and absolutely gentle West Indian side. The Indian cricket think-tank has rightly got the best youth talent on the Caribbean flight, but all this planning was for the titanic battle against England.
Yes. Probably after Ashes series, India’s tour of England will be or rather is the most anticipated Test cricket clash. History though hasn’t favoured the Indians, but it didn’t even when we went to World Twenty20 and 2011 World Cup. History and its implications have hardly mattered to MS Dhoni as such.
In fact, the Ranchi Rambo believes in making history rather than repeating it. India might not have been fierce rivals with England as they have been to Australia or Pakistan. But in the current scenario, and when top two Test playing countries clash, it can’t be anything less than mouth-watering.
The fast bowling battery of James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, and Tim Bresnan later did bring the Aussies down on their knees, but these men are now going to go heads on with three batsmen, i.e. Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, who have 40,000 runs of experience between them. And on top they have to deal with always ready to explode Virender Sehwag.
On paper and form, there is hardly anything that gives a team edge over another. England definitely has the home advantage, but India has the arsenal to dislodge anything in its way. While India has the best and most threatening batting line-up in Test cricket currently, England has a better bowling attack compared to their visitors.
England’s batsmen can’t be discounted ever. It would be foolish considering Alastair Cook, Jonathon Trott and Ian Bell did well against Aussies, which is kind of irrelevant currently, but also looked in good knick against Sri Lanka. Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen could not ask for a better stage to stand up and make it count. But it’s their bowlers who give them that X factor especially in the traditionally swinging conditions.
Essentially the main battle within the war will be of England bowlers vs Indian batsmen. Having world’s best spinner in Graeme Swann, Strauss would definitely have the upper hand in the bowling cards. Dhoni on the other hand will largely depend on Zaheer Khan, while other bowlers hopefully not make only numbers. Harbhajan Singh hasn’t set the scene on fire for a long time. Amit Mishra for his performance against West Indies might get a look in, but English batsmen will be his real test.
Both sides, currently playing different oppositions, India playing West Indies and England playing Sri Lanka, have started firing mental missiles. That shows how much their next clash means to them. It is kind of an insult to their respective current opponents. But that’s the drama which will come with it.
Another intriguing battle will be of England vs Duncan Fletcher. The former England coach, now handling Dhoni’s men will also have a big, big role to play. Swann may have said that Fletcher can come a cropper, but he hasn’t got the most lucrative coaching job in cricketing world for nothing.
A talking point before the series has started is the Decision Review System. Definitely not having the system is a shame to some extent. India’s reluctance to use it isn’t surprising in the sense that during the World Cup, India could not use the system to their advantage. They will surely miss the system if dubious decisions hurt them but then that’s the price BCCI or Team India will have to pay.
One decision or a few decisions in one session of play in one Test could not only change the game’s scenario but also the complexion of the series. For both the sides, winning this Test series is important as it will establish their No 1 credentials. India will have to defend its ranking while England will be embarking on their journey to the top.
Therefore, not to have the benefit of technology in place for such a crucial series might have its repercussions post the series. Brace up for another round of war of words for and against the system. Whoever loses the series will either speak for or against it. But above all that, the larger picture will be of the men on the field.
Strauss’s battle against left-arm seamers will only get difficult when the world’s best exponent of swing bowling, Zaheer, will be his opponent. Tendulkar will get to another milestone of reaching hundred centuries in international cricket. Dravid will look to continue his romance with English conditions and above all, little would people know India will also be defending the Pataudi Trophy.
For a little bit of trivia, since 2007, India England Test series is played for Pataudi Trophy which lies right now with India. Named after Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan, who played for both teams, the Pataudi Trophy has been won twice by India and they will look to defend it along with their No 1 ranking. So like Laxman said, let’s all say, “England we are coming, be prepared”.