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India's biggest test after the World Cup

Source : COLUMNS
Last Updated: Fri, Jul 15, 2011 10:26 hrs
Ishant scalps five as West Indies fold up for 204

The glitz of the IPL is over. The West Indies tour (which could be called a "B Team versus B Team" event) has ended. Now we have India's biggest test after the World Cup: the tour of England.

A look at India's chances in the upcoming Test series…

When Lord Ganesha blessed India at the Oval

Strengths



Momentum: You can say that the momentum is firmly with India. We have been unbeaten in a Test series for close to three years now. That will take some beating.

While England have been a great team in the past decade, they have been known to lose steam, especially after events like winning the Ashes.

England have also developed a mental block against India. The last time they beat us either at home or away was way back in 1996. In the five series since that year, India has won three with two being tied.

The onus is squarely on England to topple us.

Pace attack: Old warhorse Zaheer Khan makes a comeback along with speedster S Sreesanth. Ishant Sharma picked up 22 wickets in 3 Tests in the Windies tour and has peaked at the right time. Add Praveen Kumar's impressive 12-wicket haul on debut and we have a well-balanced pace attack.

In fact should England choose to make difficult seaming pitches, then the advantage will simply go to the team that wins the toss and elects to field.

Batting: Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir make a comeback. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are in form. Suresh Raina impressed in the West Indies.

Yuvraj Singh will be itching to cement his place in the Test side after his spectacular form in the World Cup.

Harbhajan Singh and captain MS Dhoni hit some handy runs down the order recently.

All in all, the batting should definitely come good in England.

Weaknesses

Opening: Before the Gambhir-Sehwag era, India was prone to batting collapses. One opener (or both) would invariably get out early in the innings. Wickets would fall in a heap after that. One of our biggest reasons for our recent successes has been the solidity at the very top.

Both our star openers were missing in the West Indies. The scorecards in four of our six innings looked pretty ugly at one stage: 85-6 & 57-3 (First Test), 38-4 (Second Test) and 18-2 (Third Test). The batting collapses were back.

Now, for England, only Gambhir makes a comeback and that too after recovering from an injury. India will have to battle to make sure they don't lose early wickets and surrender the advantage to England (tougher opponents than the West Indies).

Spin: Bhajji and the other Indian spinners have been faring above average in the last couple of years. While our spin attack is good, it is not as sharp as it should be.

Anil Kumble became effective on foreign tracks in the second half of his career. Now is the time for Bhajji to follow suit.

Opportunities

The England tour is a tour of opportunities for many players.

Abhinav Mukund: He may not have scored a century, but he impressed in the West Indies tour, which had some of the toughest pitches in recent times. Mukund is just 21 and has a chance of cementing his place as a future opener. If he clicks, then the Indian batting will be complete.

MS Dhoni: He may have been unbeaten for close to three years, but as captain Dhoni is yet to beat the top teams on their own soil: Australia, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka. If we win this tour, not only will we retain our No. 1 rankings, but India will announce that they are ready to take on teams like Australia on their own turf.

It's also a chance for Sachin Tendulkar to finally get his 100th international ton and for Rahul Dravid to go past Ricky Ponting to become the second highest run-getter in Tests. India would then have the top two run-getters!

Threats

England's bowling attack: England has one of the most balanced bowling attacks in the world right now. On home soil they have always had variety and been pretty effective. They will be raring to try their short-pitched stuff on the Indian batsmen, who will face one of their biggest tests in recent times.

In their series victories against Sri Lanka, Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann were the pick of the bowlers.

While India handled Tremlett well in the last series in 2007, he has become pretty effective only recently. Swann also has a chance to challenge Bhajji for being called the best spinner in the world.

Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott were all among the runs in the Sri Lanka tour. After 21 Tests, Trott has a Test average of 62.2, which is next only to the legendary Don Bradman! While the average may well go down like what happened to Aussie Michael Hussey, he remains a threat for India.

More columns

Injuries: There are four Tests to be played. Fatigue and injuries could well remain our biggest threat.

If England beat India 2-0, they will take a clear lead and become No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings.

A drawn series is enough to keep India at the top.

Of course, that will not be enough for the Indian fan who was disappointed even with the 1-0 score line against the West Indies!

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/


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