India has embarked on a Tour to England last month and already played two tour matches and winning one match there. India will be playing 5 Tests in the first leg of its tour. Now the big test awaits India in the English soil.
Performance of England:
India played its first ever test in England only in 1932 when an Indian eleven toured and lost the match under the captainship of C.K. Naidu. From that day on, India has played so far 52 matches in England and won just 5 test matches (including first series win in 1971 under Ajit Wadekar with a 1-0 margin in 3 match series and N. Kapil Dev with 2-0 (3 matches) in 1986, S.Ganguly with 1-1 in 2002 & Rahul Dravid with 1-0 in 2007). When India toured last in 2011, it got a severe drubbing at the hands of England with 4-0 in the 4 test series with MS Dhoni at the helm of affairs.
Squad for The Big Test:
M.S. Dhoni (Cap & WK), M. Vijay, S. Dhawan, C. Pujara, V. Kohli, A. Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohd. Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Stuart Binny, varun Aaron, W. Waha (WK), Pankaj Singh.
The surprise omission is Zaheer Khan, left arm seamer who broke down during the first test itself when India toured last time in 2011 and couldn’t return in that series. Gautam Gambhir (who was also one of the casualties of the 2011 series drubbing) is drafted into the national team after a hiatus gap of nearly two years, as a reserve opener for the Big test.
Pankaj Singh who had an outstanding domestic Ranji Trophy with 39 scalps under his belt in 2013-14 season and instrumental for Rajasthan’s successive titles in Ranji Trophy in 2010-11 & 2011-12 seasons and if he gets test match during Big Test, he will be the first Indian bowler with most first-class wickets ( 300 wkts) before getting a test call. Ishwar Pandey is a tall fast bowler hailing from the town of Rewa in eastern Madhya Pradesh. He was the highest wicket-taker in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, had played for India A and done reasonably well in IPL 2014. Though he got a call to tour to New Zealand test series recently, he sat out in the bench.
Bhuvi will be leading the attack in the absence of Zaheer Khan. The seaming conditions in England help the likes of Bhuvi, Pankaj, who also swings the ball both ways. In Varun Aaron we have a genuine quickie bowler and in Ishant, the tall and lanky, we have an experienced bowler. And though we have 2 quality spinners with Ashwin and Jadeja, how far they will be able to exploit the conditions is a moot question during Big Test.
Last time, three of the Fab Four i.e Sachin, Dravid and VVS Laxman played and they formed the core batting strength. And except Rahul Dravid (who scored 2 centuries in the series and also got Player of the Series award) the other two failed with the bat. MS Dhoni also scored 2 fifties in the tour. Gambir may play a crucial role in the scheme of things in batting in the top order, if he is selected to play. And for all others it’s their maiden tour to England.
Shikar Dhawan – who had a dream debut last year against Aussies in India as an opener has failed to keep the tempo high after the series and has had lot of flops after that.
Virat Kohli – the prolific run machine for India will be banking on his natural play and will be the player to watch out for in the tour. He’s scored well in away series in Australia, South Africa hitting centuries and so all eyes are on him.
Pujara, Rahane, Rohit Sharma along with Kohli will be India’s replacement for Fab Four in the batting line-up.
England’s Captain Cook is in the firing line as he was unable to motivate his team into a winning team of late. He scored his century 18 matches before and failed to get his team to success. His defensive technique proved to be counter productive as we have seen their team losing the series by 1-0 in the 2 test match series to Sri Lanka in a nail baiting 2nd Test at where they lost in the penultimate ball of the match.
The beard man, the debutant and recent sensation of England, stood like a rock of the Gibralter in the adversity and scored an unbeaten century in the 2nd Test in the 2nd innings against the Sri Lankans. He’s a player to watch as he also bowls off-spin and took some wickets in the Test. Other Batsmen like the opener Robson (who also hit a century against Srilanka), Ian Bell, Ben Stokes (who’s been recalled for India series) have to prove their credentials during the Big Test.
James Anderson, who’ll be leading the attack has bowled well when India visited in 2011 and broke the India’s top order last time also the second highest wicket taker for England, has to make a mark this time also. Stuart Broad, who will open the bowling attack along with Anderson, will be raring to go at the Indians. Liam Plumket bowled well against Srilanka in the recently concluded tests who was selected ahead of Tim Bresnan and Chris Trimlett will be a bowler to watch.
After the exit of G.Swann and Panesar, the spin bowling looking suspect for England and in fact there are now bowlers worth the name available. The spinner from Kent Mr. Riles, who is included in the team may not play all the test matches.
The Big Test:
So, it will be a keen contest for both teams trying to win the series and for both Captains A. Cook & MS Dhoni the stakes are high as they have to prove their mantle of leadership.