. THE BIG TEST
INDIA VS ENGLAND 1ST TEST
the pressure is on Cook, then even MS Dhoni is sailing in the same boat. A staggering stat about MS Dhoni: Till date, he has played 83 Tests and apart from the 148 against Pakistan at Faislabad, he hasn't scored a Test ton away from home. That's quite an anomaly which Dhoni would like to correct in this series. When India lost 4-0 last time in England, there were lots of demand for his ouster as Test captain, but he has survived not only that, but another 4-0 whitewash in Australia. Talk about the cat having nine lives, but another thrashing here would be one too many one would think.
Graeme Swann retired during the Ashes series, while Jonathan Trott came home due to a stress-related illness. With Pietersen, Swannand Trott out for various reasons, England suddenly faced Sri Lanka with quite a few fresh faces. And the result was there for all to see. To compound their woes, England's captain and opener, Alastair Cook is going through a horrendous run with the bat - having failed to score a ton in his last 12 Tests, a run of 24 innings. His last ton came against New Zealand in May 2013. The pressure is firmly on Cook and experts are of the opinion that this could be a make or break series for him.
A look at England:Ever since England set foot on Australian soil for the 2013-14 Ashes series, their fortunes have worsened dramatically. They were handed out a 5-0 drubbing in the Ashes series and then lost a home Test series to Sri Lanka off the penultimate ball of the match. Kevin Pietersen - one of their best batsman, if not the best - is no longer needed by the England team management. Pietersen was axed after the Ashes whitewash and told that there was no way back under the current set-up.
The lone shining light of that series was Rahul Dravid - who made three hundreds which included two unbeaten tons. Dravid may have retired now, but his services are sought by the Indian team to help out the youngsters in the batting department. The likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to name a few will only be too pleased to see Dravid by their side, ironing out their weaknesses.
A little flashback to 2011:196 runs at Lord's. 319 runs at Trent Bridge. Innings and 242 runs at Edgbaston. Innings and 8 runs at the Oval. These were the results of the four Tests as England thoroughly dominated a woeful Indian side. Except for a part of the Lord's Test, the games were largely one-sided affairs with India struggling to even make a match of it. The tone was set on day 1 of the series when Zaheer limped off with a hamstring strain. That set into motion a chain of events which quickly consumed the tourists.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since 2011. Iconic names like Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman have since retired. Sehwag is no longer under consideration for a Test slot. MS Dhoni is the lone survivor (if you are talking only about big names) from that carnage of a series. The surprising thing is that he still remains as captain despite a not too impressive away record in Tests. India went into the 2011 series as the top ranked side in the world, but by the end of it, their reputation lay in tatters.
Sachin Tendulkar. Rahul Dravid. VVS Laxman. Virender Sehwag. MS Dhoni. Marquee names. Legends of Indian cricket. Role models. Enviable records dot their career graph. The similarities don't end there. All were a part of the Indian team that last toured England in 2011. Could anyone have foreseen a 4-0 whitewash that was to follow? Even a betting man would've thought twice about putting his money on that scoreline before the series started in 2011. But that's exactly what transpired as India were handed a sound thrashing in each of the four Tests in that inglorious summer.
The last time these two teams met in England in a Test series, it was billed as a marquee clash of titans, before it fizzled out as a one-sided contest. India rolled over like the wrestler who was battling a hangover before the bout. England seemed formidable, with a batting and bowling attack worthy of the No.1 team in the world. Things have changed drastically since. This time around, it is not two teams grappling for 'The mace'; it is two teams searching for an identity and a foothold back in the race. In a 5-Test series, they have as long as it takes, to slay their demons or cave in. In fact, this would be the first 5-Test match series for any of the Indian players, thus demanding quite a bit of fortitude.
England's talismanic captain, once billed as Sachin Tendulkar's potential heir in Test cricket, has gone 24 innings without reaching triple figures. Their blue-eyed boy, Kevin Pietersen, who thwarted India in its own backyard is not in the scheme of things anymore. A heavy drubbing in Australia and an even more painful, agonizingly torturous series loss to Sri Lanka leave England a side bereaving a quick decline. A fresh set of players and a new coach with much to prove hope this could be the start of a new era.
Alastair Cook who came back from the verge of being dropped to hit a purple patch once before, in an Ashes series will hope for a turnaround. A mentally fit captain needs runs and 17, 28, 17 and 16 were all Cook could notch up against Sri Lanka. The good news for Cook though, is that he has a batting line-up that is in reasonable nick. Moeen Ali's gem almost saved the day for England against Sri Lanka. Sam Robson, Gary Ballance and Joe Root have also reached triple figures at least once in the two Test series, with Ian Bell and Matt Prior chipping in with sizeable knocks.
The bowling though doesn't have the fiery edge of before. Liam Plunkett and James Anderson have been amongst the wickets, but India's batting machine wouldn't really be intimidated by the battery that also includes Chris Jordan, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes. Their lower order can definitely bat though and wrapping the tail has never been one of India's strengths.
MS Dhoni meanwhile has gone three years without an overseas win. True, he won the Champions Trophy here last year, but the battle in whites has many more dimensions. His own personal form in the longer format is not awe-inspiring by any stretch of imagination. He has had starts in all 4 recent overseas matches (2 against NZ and 2 against SA) but managed a lone half century. His batting isn't the only conflict in his head. For the first time in years, India might field five bowlers, Stuart Binny eating up Rohit Sharma's place.
Only Bhuvanesh Kumar inspires any confidence in the bowling line-up that also features the lacklustre Ishant Sharma, the rookies Pankaj Singh and Ishwar Pandey and the talented Mohammed Shami. Ravindra Jadeja in all probability will take the lone spinner's slot ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin. Umesh Yadav with a natural out-swinger and genuine pace surprisingly lost out to an erratic Varun Aaron and that might come back to bite India.
There is a good chance India wouldn't play all 5 Tests with the same team. Gautam Gambhir will definitely put pressure on the standard openers, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. There will also be a tussle between Rohit Sharma and Binny for the No.6 slot, with Ashwin getting a chance on a drier pitch. In fact, the only way Binny could stay out is if both Rohit and Rahane do very well and the 4 bowlers prove to be good enough, a highly unlikely situation. Even if Rohit Sharma gets to play in the first Test, it is understood his place is in serious scrutiny. In the pace department, it will be a surprise if Ishant Sharma wins a slot ahead of Ishwar Pandey.
India- Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma/Stuart Binny, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvanesh Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey.
England- Alastair Cook, Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Ian Bell, Moeen Ali, Matt Prior, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, Liam Plunkett, James Anderson
Key Players: Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane could well be the stars of the series for India at No.4 and No.5. Stuart Binny with a good knock in the practice match could earn a cap if the pitch offers any assistance to seam bowling at all, giving India an extra bowling option at No.7.
Joe Root, fresh off a double century will be the rooted wicket for the Indian bowlers, as he is capable of piling the daddy hundreds. Besides, without a frontline spinner, his clever and steady off-spin will come handy at times. Gary Ballance, who racked his maiden Test century in the Sri Lanka series and a 50+ first class average, is the other batsman Indians should be wary of. Ian Bell could once again prove to be a thorn like in the previous series.
Let the games begin!
England(From): Alastair Cook(c), Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Matt Prior(w), Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler
India(From): Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Pankaj singh
Edited by cute00ish - 09 July 2014 at 3:22am