It’s time to take a deep breath folks. Today we have a guest article by the Indian supporters’ site 1 Tip 1 Hand. As you can probably guess, they’re feeling a little more optimistic about the upcoming series than ourselves.
It’s always interesting to hear the opposition’s take on things, so thanks to Dhananjaya Chak and the 1 Tip 1 Hands guys for joining the debate. I wrote an equivalent piece, giving the English perspective, for their site too (you can read it here). Obviously I tried to get our excuses in first!
17 August 2014 is still fresh in our memories. It’s the day England last played India in a test match.
We had just started our blog in the wake of the ridiculous “pre-hurricane” collapse at Old Trafford – unbelievably, the third day at the Oval was worse. Anderson, Broad & Co. dismantled the Indian batting line-up in 29.2 overs. In a few short weeks, India had gone from leading the test series after a famous win at Lords to losing it 3-1.
The five tests between India and England will kick-off on 9 November 2016. 815 days will have passed waiting for test hostilities to resume between these two fierce rivals.
Revenge, like Kingfisher beer, is best served cold.
Before we lose all perspective, let’s take stock of how things currently stand.
1) India has not won a test series against England since Sachin Tendulkar made his emotional hundred just after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
2) The only player in the current Indian test squad to have tasted a series victory against England is Gautam Gambhir (1-0 in 2008-2009).
3) Since the 2008-2009 series, England has won twice at home (4-0 in 2011 and 3-1 in 2014) and once in India (2-1 in 2012-13).
4) India’s test win-loss ratio is lowest against England. Out of 112 tests, India has only won 21 test matches while losing 43 (W/L ratio of 0.488 compared to its overall W/L ratio of 0.84).
No doom or gloom for an England fan there. Recent history as well as the overall statistics favour England. Also, in Alistair Cook and Joe Root, England has two players of absolute class. Ben Stokes is a superb all-round cricketer.
Then why do we think this series will be different from the last three?
Here are five reasons why we think India will go on to sweep the series 5-0. Move over, Glenn McGrath!
This is the most obvious one. India goes into the series on a high after their 3-0 drubbing of the Kiwis secured their top test ranking. Other teams have been swept aside by India at home. Australia’s last tour of India was a 0-4 disaster. South Africa lost three tests out of four with one rain affected draw. With all its key players (Kohli, Pujara, Rahane, Ashwin, Jadeja) in form and the supporting cast fairly settled, India will be confident of inflicting similar pain on England.
England, on the other hand, barely squeaked past Bangladesh in the first test by 22 runs and imploded in a 10 wicket session in the second test. The Ballancebalance of the English team has been questioned and there is uncertainty around the composition of the playing XI. With a middle order which has little experience in Indian conditions, India will fancy their chances of bundling England out quickly once they have got the two big wickets of Cook and Root.
Also, England have already been away from home for a while and a long tour of the subcontinent can go south very quickly once things start going against you. The start of the tour will be key so we expect India to hit England hard in the first test.
2) Home sweet home
All test teams win more games at home. Tailor-made pitches, partisan crowds, the media and the visitors’ homesickness all play a part. Both England and India win more than twice as many test matches at home than they do abroad. In the past five years, India has won more than three times as many test matches at home as they have abroad.
For this tour, expect spinning tracks, good crowds and long periods of attritional cricket before games explode into life without warning. England’s fortunes on this tour will hinge on how quickly they can get used this.
And remember, India last lost a test match at home in December 2012 (to England, but still).
3) Spinners are match winners
After watching Mehedi Hasan’s performance against England, Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Amit Mishra will all be waiting for the English to arrive in India.
In Ashwin’s short test career he has taken 220 wickets in just 39 matches and racked-up seven Man of the Series awards, more than any other Indian in history. His spin partnership with Jadeja will be England’s biggest worry coming into this series – Ashwin picked up 27 wickets against the Kiwis and Jadeja picked up 14. Add Amit Mishra’s 15 wickets in the ODI series against New Zealand to the mix and India have three genuine match-winning spinners.
The last time England was in India, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann were absolutely irresistible. Their skill and stamina went a long way to winning the series for England (along with the efforts of Cook and KP). This time around, England has selected three spinners in their squad – Batty, Moeen and Rashid – but Cook has previously shown no confidence in their abilities. There was no better example of this than on the last day of the first test against Bangladesh. Two wickets away from a win on turning track – is there a better time to back your spinners? Instead, Cook went to Stokes and Broad.
Like many of you, we just don’t see Batty, Rashid and Moeen out-bowling the Indian spinners.
After years of resistance from the BCCI while Indian fans cried themselves hoarse when a decision went against their team, the Decision Review System will be used in the upcoming series. Contrary to popular belief, we think this may actually help India.
The fact remains that umpiring in the sub-continent is a hard job – things do get missed with the constant appealing in energy-sapping conditions. Kohli has previously been robbed of a potential test victory (anyone remember the Galle test?) and has spoken publicly about supporting the DRS. He is a canny operator and will know that his spinners are better than England’s and will benefit from this use of technology.
Also, Mr. Dharmasena is one of the standing umpires in the test series. Enough said.
5) King Kohli
At the start of this home season, we had said that Kohli will be looking to prove that he is the best batsman in the world. One of the contenders for the crown has already been to India with mediocre returns (Kane Williamson averaged 33.75 while Kohli averaged 51.5 in the recent Kiwi-wash).
Nothing spurs Kohli on like a challenge and Joe Root is next in Kohli’s sights.
In 2014, Root, then a baby-faced 23 year old, averaged 103.50 against India with two hundreds. Kohli’s had a torrid time in that series, averaging 13.50. While Kohli will be desperate to make his own mark with the bat early in this series to put those memories behind him, he will also be thinking of ways to make Root’s life as miserable as possible. Root will be in the crosshairs every time he walks to the crease and his battle against the Indian spinners will make for fascinating cricket.
While India needs Kohli to fire as a batsman, it is his contribution as captain that will be even more important. With Virat Kohli at the helm, India has won 10 test matches and has only lost two. Kohli is yet to lose a test match at home and he will do everything in his power to protect that record.
Unlike his predecessor, Kohli appears to actually enjoy playing test cricket and plotting the opposition’s downfall over five days. He likes dictating terms to the opposition and endorses attacking cricket. He is unafraid to speak his mind or ask for pitches he wants. He is also a quick learner – after India’s defeat in Galle to Angelo Matthew’s “in-out” fields, he has been quick to implement these himself in order to take wickets without giving away too many runs. So far it has worked like a charm.
By contrast, Alistair Cook’s captaincy is more in the Dhoni mould. He is quite content to sit back and take the game as it comes. However, with no KP, Swann or Panesar in his team, he will need to show some initiative if England are to repeat the monumental feat of beating India in India. A loss in India could bring Captain Cook’s reign to an end.
There you have it. Two top test teams. Five tests. Indian fans – make sure your beers are chilled. We’ve waited a long time for this.
1 Tip 1 Hand