Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Preview, 1st Test, India versus England, Ahmedabad

Revenge is a word that evokes powerful thoughts and emotions with it being what this series between India and England has been built around. After the shame felt by the hosts in a humiliating 4 nil white wash on England soil in 2011.

In truth it is an irrational basis for the series with both Teams being so different from how they were in 2011 in terms of the players they have and their standing in the game. Fallen from both being atop the Test mountain to being in transition with India dealing with the loss of two icons in Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and England being under a new Skipper in Alastair Cook.

The real intrigue in this series is that on paper both Teams are are almost imposible to split with both being flawed entities making the one that covers up their deficiencies best being the likely winner.

Duly, lets dissect the first stanza of the series

The Pitch

According to Roshan Mahanama via The Hindu, the Pitch has not been watered for three days with it expected to be bone dry and to take sharp turn

Which would make for compelling viewing if that is the case, but the thought that it will be a raging turner was counted by M.S.Dhoni's observations 

"It looks like a good wicket at the moment and is on the drier side," explained Dhoni.

"But it seems they have changed the soil and the wicket will slow down as the game progresses and spinners will get assistance," he continued, adding, "Hopefully there will be some reverse swing for the quick bowlers as well."

Reading between the lines, it seems apparent that it will be a pretty atypical Asian pitch where the toss compels you to bat first score big and then rely on your spinners on day 4 and 5

Likely Teams

With the potential of the pitch to support turn coupled with the English noted weakness against it. The temptation is there for the Indians to have three spinners in the Team
When pressed on this point this was Dhoni's rather evasive response

"If we get a wicket like Kanpur -- where India beat South Africa in 2008 to square the series -- we might go in with four spinners as well,"

I cannot see the Indians being that adventurous in selection in a crucial first game of the series meaning Umesh Yadav will be Zaheer Khan's new ball partner with only two spinners played.

Leaving the team as follows:

Gambhir, Sehwag, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Ojha, Yadav


The English Team will be intriguing with them already saying that Steve Finn will not play which automatically makes us think that they are playing ducks and drakes with the Indians with Finn being a certain starter.

Especially after him looking as fresh as a daisy on Sunday and unleashing some real rockets in practice

The other main conundrum is whether the English include Monty Panesar to have two quality spinners on a spin favoured pitch. That would make sense, but it seems likely that they will rely on a combination of Samit Patel and KP for the 2nd spin option. Which is a guaranteed fail against the Indian batsmen who eat the very best spinners for breakfast let alone pie chucking part timers

If England were not so fragile against spin this game and series would offer a perfect opportunity to bat Matt Prior at 6 and include 5 bowlers
But that will not happen with this the likely Team

Cook, Compton, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Patel, Prior, Broad, Bresnan, Swann, Anderson,

The Keys to Winning


As you were listening to all the takes from the players and Indian Brains trust in the lead up to this series reading between the line you got the impression that they just thought pick a few spinners and prepare favourable decks and it will be a cake walk.

Which has taken the focus off the glaring deficiencies in its line up

Starting with a batting line up that has been carried by two youngsters in Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli in 2012. A look of the averages of the rest of the top 6 is not pleasant reading 

Gautam Gambhir: 5 Tests, 9 innings, average 24.77

Virender Sehwag: 5 Tests, 9 innings, average 28

Sachin Tendulkar 5 Tests, 9 innings, average 27.22

A huge worry when you include Yuvraj Singh in the top 6 who has been found wanting in Tests before and the fact that the one thing known about youth is that inconsistency goes hand in hand with it.

To keep relying on Kohli and Pujara to keep carrying them is like leading in a Boxing match with your chin.

Pure and simple these lauded Veterans need to lift for India to be successful in this series for England's batting has indeed been exposed in Asian conditions, but their bowling has remained excellent

Meaning if these veterans continue with their struggles they will be ruthlessly exposed by the very strong English bowling

Away from the batting, the support given to the spinners will be crucial in their success

"We have to attack as a unit and the contribution of the part-timers will be important,"

These words from M.S.Dhoni are Gospel truth with the new ball bowlers and their ability to get early wickets being crucial for the spinners. Especially when you take into account that England's batting King Pins in Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott reside in their top 3.

As spinners you do not want to come on with these two well established for they are almost impossible to usurp once they are.
There is also a lovely irony in this quote from Dhoni with him being the main influence on how the bowling unit goes through his tactics.

He simply cannot be defensive as he often is with fields pushed back as if he is in an ODI game.

For if he does he will remove what was the main cause of the English struggles against spin in regards to their scoring rates being strangled leading to frustration and untimely demise.
If all these factors come together you can see the very talented spin duo of Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran AShwin being lethal in this game and series

The main factor for England in this game is their battle against the expected spin onslaught for if they can match it or break even you can see their bowling being more than a match for the fragile Indian batting.

Key to this will be proactive mindsets born out of the lessons learn from having their pants pulled down by Pakistan in particular.

There was little doubt that the English were beaten by a very high calibre spin unit, but they also did everything in their power to compound the problems they were experiencing

With them being ultra negative in their batting which was a far cry from the positivity that led them to the games summit. They allowed the bowlers to dictate to them when they could have attempted to challenge the reality and turn it around.

In this series they need to redress this through them having the courage to use their feet to attack to break up the fields and prey on M.S.Dhoni's natural inclination to be defensive. If they can prey on this with him pushing the fields back it will aide the English greatly through their natural accumulating batting styles being fed.

Away from their batting that will be decisive they need to keep Virender Sehwag down with his meaning to India's batting being profound

If they can neutralise him, it will add pressure to his out of form partner Gambhir and the rest of the batting.

Key to this is to cut off his boundaries and making him run for if you make him have to work for his runs he struggles with the mental application involved. Which leads to him getting frustrated and dismissed

You can guarantee that the English will see him as the key man with him have a target on his head big time!


Tough to decide here

But call me crazy but I just have a feeling that India are relying too heavily on spin to see them through.

Whereas England would have worked hard to counter their weakness against it as well as having plans in place to break down India

So England to win this Test

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