17 July 2011

India in England, 2011: First Thoughts

As the minutes trickle by with inescapable slowness till the afternoon of the 21st, what better way waste some of them than with pointless thoughts about what we might have in store for us then.

Four tests in England! My aren’t the BCCI being generous. Mm mm mm.

The immediate thing that strikes one about the series is how evenly the two teams stack up against each other. Both bear a settled look with competition mainly for the third seamers place. Both are certain to play seven batsmen and four bowlers, with three seamers and an off-spinner being the likely combination.

The similarity between the teams borders on the ridiculous when you consider that until Sehwag returns, aside from Broad’s left-hand batting, the teams line up identically vis-a-vis which hand they prefer. Spot for spot, there are interesting contests on offer.

The Openers – England hold the advantage here. This is mainly because Sehwag is certain to miss the first two, and Strauss weighs over fledgling Mukund for whom this is a big opportunity. Cook’s stupendous recent run is scary, but you would argue that Gautham Gambhir can hold his own against him. Interestingly, Gambhir made his debut in 2004 but has played only 38 tests to Cook’s 68 since 2006. Gambhir’s average is slightly better, but he missed the last tour to England and so will be making his debut there.

The Middle Order – There is little that can be said about this Indian middle order that hasn’t been said before. Yes they are aging but that’s unavoidable given our collective failure as a nation to figure out how to prevent it. I’m just happy to watch them bat for as long as possible. The English match up evenly. As a massive compliment to Jonathan Trott, he has Dravid-like temperament and grit. Sachin is well... Sachin, and KP can do this. Ian Bell and VVS Laxman are both exquisite stylists in good form. Familiarity with conditions gives the English whatever little the Indians score over them in reputation.

The Late Order – Ian Morgan and Suresh Raina are similar in that they are excellent one day batsmen whose test credentials are under examination. I believe that Raina has a major role to play in the Indian team’s future. His susceptibility to the short ball should prove less of a disadvantage in Tests because he doesn’t need to score off them. He also has a better defensive technique than Yuvraj Singh. As I write this, he has notched up a counter-attacking hundred in the Somerset game. There is some talk of his spot being under pressure from Yuvraj, but I wouldn’t drop him unless he failed in all of the first three tests. Dhoni and Prior are good keepers with similar batting averages and aggressive approaches. Harbhajan and Broad can also do damage with the bat.

The Quicks – Khan and Anderson are master swing bowlers, deadly and dangerous. Ishant and Tremlett both tall and gangly, looking to bang it in and jangle the splices. Broad and Sree, petulant and badly behaved, looking to see who can throw the bigger tantrum. It is all too similar. Khan will want to find Strauss’s number and keep dialing it, but he had no such luck in the warm-up game. Khan usually delivers, but Ishant and Sree are much more inconsistent and a lot will depend on whether they show up. Very honestly, Anderson and Tremlett are scary prospects and in my opinion, England edge India here.

The Offies – Swann looks the much more threatening bowler, despite Habhajan’s weight of wickets. If Swann is able to trouble the Indian batsmen, it will add much force to claims of him being the best spinner around.

The Bench – India have some variety in the bowling cupboard with a leg spinner and Kumar’s medium paced swing. If India drop Sree, I would pick Kumar ahead of Munaf, who doesn’t look like much of a threat in Tests. An adventurous captain would give Mishra a shot before Harbhajan, but I do not see this happening. Another bad game and I would replace Broad with another seam bowler, of which England have plenty.

With recent form and home advantage behind them, I would say England hold the slight edge. But all of this is moot once the first ball is bowled.

Speaking of which, I wonder what time it is?...


Indian Dude said...

Nice write up. Whacky and thoughtful making the comparisons between the teams. Good one.....

Avinash said...