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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 28 JUNE, 2018

History Against the Tourists But the Mood for India Remains High

Indian team reaches England


The Indian cricket team has landed in England amidst a mood of high expectations. Anybody and everybody is of the opinion that the tourists have an excellent chance of winning the Test series in England which is of course the chief objective though there are a number of T-20 internationals and ODIs also to be played.

Part of this optimism stems from the fact that the team has landed sufficiently early to get acclimatised to the conditions. The inadequate preparation was regarded as one of the reasons why India lost the three-Test series in South Africa in January this year. They landed just a few days before the first Test was to commence, did not play a warm-up game and only had a couple of net sessions.

The result was that they lost the first two Tests but won the third Test and then went on to dominate the ODI series which they won 5-1 and the T-20 series which they won 2-1. All this gave rise to wide speculation that the Test series need not have been lost had the Indians gone to South Africa sufficiently early and played a couple of warm-up games.

At least this time should the tourists fail inadequate preparation cannot be given as an excuse. They have already landed in England, they play the first T-20 international against Ireland on June 27, figure in a number of T-20 games and ODIs and even a first class fixture before taking on England in the first Test which starts on August 1. Indeed a confident Virat Kohli has said that by the time the team plays the Tests ``it will be so comfortable that we wont even feel like we are playing in an away series.’’

But of course there are other factors too in India’s favour and the most important one is the composition of the squad. It wears a balanced and well settled look with youth and experience going hand in hand. The batsmen have been in good nick, the bowlers, both pacers and spinners, can be expected to use the conditions to the best of their ability given the fact that almost all of them have played in England before.

The Indians are particularly strong in the seam bowling department and as past events have proved this is the mode of bowling that is likely to take most of the wickets in England. Sachin Tendulkar has said that the pace attack is one of the best ever in Indian cricket and it is difficult to disagree with this assessment. But with the Tests being played in late summer the spinners too can be expected to play an important role.

There is really nothing to be worried about the batting for it has a settled look. With Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay at the top followed by Virat Kohli, Cheteswar Pujara, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane there should be runs aplenty.

Amidst all this optimism however it must not be forgotten that India’s overall record in England leaves much to be desired. Out of 17 series played there since the inaugural Test in 1932 India have won just three and there has been an element of luck involved with the triumphs in 1971 and 2007.

The clear cut 2-0 victory in the three-match series in 1986 is the only contest in which India has really outplayed the opposition. Even after discounting the initial contests when India were still feeling their way in international cricket it cannot be denied that India have lost the last two series in England by margins that brook no argument – a clean sweep 4-0 thrashing in 2011 and a 3-1 defeat three years later.

Despite the fact that the Indian team over the years has registered a number of significant overseas victories they are not known to be good travellers. The fact that India have yet to win a Test series in Australia and South Africa will perhaps symbolise this. History then is against the tourists but so it was too in 1971 when that historic breakthrough triumph was achieved.

Much of what India can achieve will also be dependent of the kind of the opposition they come up against and England haven’t really covered themselves with glory of late. Being outclassed in the Ashes series ``Down Under’’ and then squaring a series with a none too formidable Pakistan side this month has given enough indication of the weaknesses in the home team’s camp. They still depend heavily on a couple of batsmen and a couple of bowlers. However the fact that India are the top ranked team whereas England are No 5 is bridged by the latter’s home advantage.

The limited overs games as only to be expected should be closely fought contests though England both by virtue of being the top ranked team (India are No 2) as also their superb showing in the just concluded ODI contest against Australia which they made a clean sweep of must start as favourites. The results of the limited over games however should have no bearing on the Tests as the teams on both sides will be very different. .
 

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