England hosts India for four tests five ODIs and a T20. It is billed as the series the number one team, India vs. the number one contenders, England. If you look at the official rankings, Indians are on the top. I think India South Africa, England are the top teams, each on their day capable of upsetting the other two, Indian have squared series with South Africa home and abroad. SAfs have lost of English in South Africa, while English haven’t won a series against India in England or anywhere for last ten years or so, the previous series played in England in 2002 series was drawn, Indian won in 2007.
This series see the teams’ line up and balance each other man for man. In the openers, Strauss and Cook square against Gambhir and Mukund. Gambhir is coming back after missing a few test, so he is likely to be edgy. Mukund looked good but may want to consider resetting himself for English conditions. Zaheer would get an opportunity to bowl at two left handers in Cook and Strauss. Sehwag not likely before the third test as I write this, Johanthan Trott has been collecting runs, playing sense and ticking the strike over. He may not have the aura of a big stroke player but he is least likely to step in the trap to prove his bravado. Rahul Dravid is perhaps an institution when it comes to batting at number three. Dravid’s form will make set the tone how the team performs. If Dravid is fluent and controls the tempo, then he would lay strong foundations and Indians would do well, if he doesn’t then Indians may struggle for just that bit. I am not adding Sehwag to this, coz he is injured. There is no point discussing what an injured player could have done. But it just shifts the favour of the balance towards the English.
Tendulkar, will score runs. It is the matter of time. Indian middle order of Tendulkar, Laxman, Raina and Dhoni will compete with Pietersen, Bell, Morgan. Bell seems to be in form, but Pietersen's form is a worry. I hope he has a good series. It would be fun seeing Morgan against Bhajji. Then Prior vs. Dhoni, both good, but Dhoni has aura and Prior has his gloves. The bowling is where this series gets very exciting. Laxman hasnt had a century there in England. Laxman may want to cash in on this series big time. He has had a decent workout in West Indies, his sublime touch in English conditions would be great to watch.
Zaheer, Praveen Kumar, Munaf, Ishant, Sreesanth are all available for selection (fingers crossed). I mean when was the last time, place for three seamers and five were available for selection? There is variety as well, Kumar and Sreesanth will swing it, Ishant will queue up to get use of any bounce, Munaf has control. Zaheer has everything. Sreesanth will also look to do something, it could be bowling as well. The team up against, Bresnan, Broad, Tremlett, Anderson. A very good attack. I have a feeling even the seam attack tends to balance it out. The key lies some where between the fingers you may guess. Swan vs. Bhajji is perhaps the one to watch. Swan and Bhajji are both off spinners, Swann has a bagful of wickets, Bhajji is struggling for rhythm. Swan clearly has an edge. The difference is Swann would be bowling to Indian batsmen who are comfortable facing spin bowling, especially off spin bowling. English batsmen have had a traditional weakness to collapse against any kind of bowling.
Strauss has been a reluctant captain, who has learnt the trade after he got the job. Dhoni it seems was destined to be this Captain Cool. Dhoni is still to lose a series. Dhoni will always have a few tricks up his sleeves. Strauss will be efficient and clinical and methodical, Dhoni will Strauss guessing. Dhoni would want to score here with the bat.
It is unlike the series in West Indies, where India had field new players. Raina, Laxman and Ishant were the big plus from that series. Gambhir and other making comeback. I am also looking forward to English commentators for this series. They are fun to listen.
I think 1-1 may be a fair result for the series.