If someone just goes by the statistics of India's tour to England back in July 2011, those people would have certainly predicted a hands down victory for the English considering that most players here are the same as the ones back then and the Indian squad too, is nearly unchanged. However, the conditions are hostile and also India being hungry for revenge for what happened a fifteen months ago. Also, we've to take into fact how the team performed in UAE against Pakistan under similar conditions.
This would be the first test series Captain Cook would be leading, and a very important series too, as England would have to start retracing their path back to the number one spot starting from November 15.
Squad: Cook (c), Broad(vc), Bairstow, Anderson, Bell, Bresnan, Compton, Finn, Onions, Meaker (cover for Finn), Morgan, Panesar, Patel, Pietersen, Prior, Root, Trott, Swann
What I really liked at first glance about this squad is that it has included some new players, especially, the inclusion of Compton is what I really appreciate and I believe that he could be England's next success story on an experiment with a 29 year old, the previous one being Jonathan Trott. I would have preferred the selection of James Taylor over Joe Root but I don't think we'd be able to see Root play unless England ensure a victory in the series.
As far as the batting is concerned, I believe Cook, Pietersen and Trott hold the key and should be anchoring the innings, with others supporting these three. A genuine problem England would have to counter is their weakness against spin, with India likely to use Ashwin and Harbhajan from either of the ends and I really doubt the abilities of the English batsmen in dealing with spin, especially the tail as seen in the series against Pakistan at UAE. It'd be interesting to see how Stuart Broad shows his ability with the bat this time under completely different conditions and if he delivers like what he did against India in England in 2011, he has the ability to turn the match around.
'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' – England have religiously followed this principle as far as the bowling unit is concerned, realising that their Finn-Broad-Anderson trio supported by Swann won't work in the sub-continent have instead tried to replicate the Indian system of bowling, with two spinners bowling for thirty overs supported by a part timer(Yuvraj Singh would be the person this time, I believe) and England, for doing this, have brought Panesar back into the squad, who was effective against Pakistan and also, Samit Patel, who was one of those very few players who did well in the ODI series against India last year in India, has cemented his place in the test side who would be lending a helping hand to Swann and Panesar. I believe Broad would be an effective bowler in the sub-continent and since economy rates don't matter much, the secondary choice could be Anderson (Finn unfortunately being injured).
Regarding the wicket-keeper, the choice is between Bairstow and Prior, a tough choice to make – a selector might have chosen both had the Pietersen crisis not been resolved, especially after Bairstow's performance at the Lord's against South Africa. However, owing to Prior's experience in the Indian conditions, it should give him the edge as the first choice wicket-keeper irrespective of his recent form.
The previous squad
When England visited India back in 2008 for the postponed test series owing to the 26/11 Mumbai attack in what was a continuation of their woeful tour, it marked the fall of the side that was on the rise.
2008 squad: Pietersen (c), Cook, Strauss, Bell, Collingwood, Shah, Flintoff, Prior, Ambrose, Swann, Broad, Amjad Khan, Harmison, Anderson, Panesar
For starters, it is a pleasant surprise that England, who had often been changing their whole team after one tour till the later years of the previous decade, has managed to retain eight players from the previous tour.
Something that would be obvious to anyone is that the 2008 squad is a highly experienced squad but for the Danish fast bowler Amjad Khan, who didn't play and at first glance, looks like a much stronger squad than the 2012 squad. Moreover, the men who ran the show back then, that is, Strauss, Flintoff and Collingwood aren't playing any more and the only other good performer barring these three was Kevin Pietersen, who too, was kicked out of the squad for the third test against South Africa leading to their loss of the number one ranking, missed the T20 World Cup and the ECB has finally buried the hatchet with him and I'm sure KP would be desperate to prove himself.
Unfortunately, captaincy has changed hands – the list looks misleading and completely ignores the man in between to whom the captaincy was passed on, the veteran who retired recently, Andrew Strauss – stability in captaincy would have ensured some sort of stability in the team's approach. However, that shouldn't be a major problem, with eight of them being retained and at least seven of them likely to be a part of the playing eleven.
On the whole, I feel that the squad selection has been appropriate. There is the lack of experience, especially in the middle order but previously, experienced ones failed in India and it'd be interesting to see if the Indian bowlers are caught unaware of their techniques and it would be an important learning experience for the new players in the side, such as Root and Compton and also for the fairly new players such as Patel and Bairstow especially when the former is yet to prove himself in tests. It is really commendable on ECB's part that the Pietersen issue has been solved – settling a major dispute and the British media can't blame his absence for their performance, in case the worst is it happen.
If I were to select the playing XI, this would be my list
- Alastair Cook
- Ian Bell
- Jonathan Trott
- Kevin Pietersen
- Eoin Morgan
- Matt Prior
- Samit Patel
- Stuart Broad
- Grame Swann
- James Anderson
- Monty Panesar
This would be a difficult tour for them – definitely a highly talented squad but the real question is how they'd respond to this big challenge.
Have a nice day,