England: India’s happiest hunting ground…

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 04, 2014 22:51 hrs

India is set to play a marathon 5-Test cricket series against England. While sceptics will point to the fact that we lost 0-4 last time and could well end up with 0-5 this time, the fact remains that in foreign Test series, England is the only place we have won thrice.

In 1971, England had returned home after a victorious world tour and we beat them 1-0. In 1986 Dilip Vengsarkar became the lord of Lord’s and we won 2-0. 
Then there was the exciting Jellybeangate series we won in 2007.

India has reason to be hopeful because after the 0-8 debacle, we finally put up a fight in South Africa and New Zealand. England on the other hand just lost a Test series with Sri Lanka and looks vulnerable.

MS Dhoni is considered as a really bad overseas Test captain by many and probably would have been sacked after the 0-8 overseas debacle in any other country. But we still have him and one hopes that Dhoni’s legendary luck comes back to him in England.

Interestingly in terms of foreign Test victories against the Top 8 teams, Dhoni has a chance to equal or go past Sourav Ganguly’s5 wins: 1 each in Australia, England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies.

Dhoni has 4 wins: 1 each in South Africa,New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
He is tied with Rahul Dravid: 1 win each in Pakistan, South Africa England and West Indies.

Our three frontline batsmenVirat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan all have Test runs on tough foreign pitches and will look to make the most of the conditions in England. All three scored at least one century in the South Africa-New Zealand tours.

One hopes that Gautam Gambhir can return to form and Rohit Sharma transfers his great touch in ODIs to Tests.Both Rohit and Dhoni hit useful fifties in the recent foreign tours but they will have to go well beyond that if we have any chance of winning.

Ajinkya Rahane also scored a fifty in his first T20 in England in 2011 along with another in the ODI series. Our team is not that inexperienced.
In the first practice match at Leicester all the Indian batsmen reached double figures.In the second practice match at Derby, most of the batsmen reached double figures too. We managed to win the match and that will boost the Team India’s confidence no end.

That’s enough batting practice for everyone as Indians are usually poor overseas starters. Many a time the Indians have lost the first Test badly never to recover in the entire tour.

While our batting order consisting the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have generally done well on Indian pitches, it is our fast bowlers have really let us down. This was especially true for our 0-8 overseas Test debacle.

This time the selectors have gone all out and picked a record 7 quicks and medium pacers: Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron,Stuart Binny, Ishwar Pandey and Pankaj Singh.

Now that’s quite a something and if the team management play their cards right and Dhoni makes the right on-field calls, then the England batsmen could find themselves in an uncomfortable position. 

Injuries would also not end up people pressing the panic buttons and urgently calling pacers from home.
The only downer is that none of them are Lefties and we are going in for an all-right attack!

If we play one spinner then it will be a toss-up between Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, both who have proved to be match-winners.
The Indians beginstheir campaign at Trent Bridge in Nottingham where we recorded a Test win in the Jellybeangatematch and that won us the series in 2007. 

That match saw some fine bowling by Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble. 8 Indian batsmen reached double figures in the first innings as India made a commanding 481 despite there being no centuries. 

That is exactly the kind of fighting spirit that this current Indian team has to show if we are to have any chance of competingin this tough series.

A fourth Test series win in a foreign country would be unprecedented for India.

Tough, but not impossible!

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs here