India pocketed a morale-boosting win in the tour match against Derbyshire just ahead of its first Test against England. After the two tour matches, there were some positives but the negatives remained intact. The batsmen performed well with almost everyone chipping in with decent contributions, but the bowling remains a worry.
But when India toured England the last time around, it was the catastrophic batting failure that brought about the team’s downfall. In the four Tests, India managed to post a 300 plus total just once. Rahul Dravid was fighting a lone battle and was the only centurion for India, amassing three tons. This was completely unexpected from a batting order boasting the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
Due credit had to be given to the England bowlers though. The trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann made life extremely difficult for the Indian batsmen on the tour. Anderson swung it both ways, Broad ‘surprisingly’ found his line and length and topped the bowling averages with 25 wickets at 13.84. He also used the short ball smartly. Swann for his part complemented the two pacers well. He was patient and when the time came, he bowled a match-winning spell of 6/106 on the final day at the Oval to complete a humiliating whitewash over India.
But most importantly, the factor that worked in their favour then, was the fact that they were oozing with confidence. England were having their best ever run in Test cricket. They went into the series on the back of five consecutive Test series wins. Cut to the present, and it’s a very different story. Both Anderson and Broad are still part of the English team in this series but the Indian batsmen will face them with a lot more confidence. This is in fact, the best chance for the Indian youngsters to make their name on the big stage and there are certain factors they need to take advantage of. First and foremost, England’s two main bowlers are jaded. This was witnessed in the recently concluded England-Sri Lanka Test series. This is where the Indian batsmen should pounce upon the opportunity. They should try and tire the English pacers as much as possible. It’s the old Ali rope-a-dope. The other factor that will work in their favour is the absence of a world class spinner like Swann… Pacer Liam Plunkett returned to Test cricket after a seven-year absence and bowled impressively against Sri Lanka but can he continue this run over a stretch of five matches?
Chris Jordan is another pacer in the English ranks but he was only good in patches and had an average debut series against Sri Lanka. Chris Woakes, who might feature at some point, has played just one Test. Their inexperience might prove to be a decisive factor for the Indians. Jordanwill fight for a place with Ben Stokes but the latter isn’t as menacing as Broad or Anderson at their peak.
This Indian batting line-up might be inexperienced but they showed great grit and determination on the tour of South Africa and New Zealand. Cheteshwar Pujara ended with an average of 70, Virat Kohli with 68 and Ajinkya Rahane with 69.66 and that too against a lethal attack consisting of Vernon Philander, Dale Stayn and Morne Morkel.
Another factor that would help the batsmen is the fact that the hosts are not likely to prepare green wickets like last time around which will help the seamers as reported by George Dobell of ESPNCricinfo. England have gone seven Tests without a win, they lost the one-off T20I and ODI series against Sri Lanka before the Test series. Simply put, it won’t be as difficult as 2011. That doesn’t mean it will be easy either. But it’s a chance… a chance India’s got to take.