Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Preview, India versus England Test Series

It is hard not to buy into the tension of this series with both Teams desperate to regain the lost pride they had when they were respected as undisputed heavyweights in the Test arena. Throw in the burning desire of revenge after India were whitewashed in England last year and you have a last man standing affair set up.

There is a lovely surreal nature in the lead up to this clash with most assuming it will be a cake walk for India on the basis of England's keystone capers against spin. Which indeed has sound merit, but can be challenged by viewing the visible weaknesses that are apparent in the Indian line up as well as the high calibre class that still exists in the English Team.

Making you question whether India can fully victimise that apparent weakness while at the same time safe guarding against their own fragilities being dissected


The Pitches/Conditions
The venues are as follows with 4 Tests being held at India's cricketing hot beds. Lets hope we see a full Eden Gardens for the third Test

1st Test: India v England at Ahmedabad 
Nov 15-19, 2012 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)
2nd Test: India v England at Mumbai 
Nov 23-27, 2012 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)
3rd Test: India v England at Kolkata 
Dec 5-9, 2012 (09:00 local | 03:30 GMT | 14:30 EST | 14:00 CST | 11:30 WST)
4th Test: India v England at Nagpur 
Dec 13-17, 2012 (09:30 local | 04:00 GMT | 15:00 EST | 14:30 CST | 12:00 WST)

Away from the venues, you have to drool at the talk leading up to this series as well as treating it with cynicism. With the promise of 'rank turners' in the words of Virat Kohli as part of the revenge for the 'greentops' India got in England

I love hearing these type of terms fall from the lips of youth for on the one hand they have no concept of their meaning as well as what governs in the preparations of pitches.

These 'Greentops' as Kohli described them saw England record scores of 474/8, 544, 710/7 and 591/6. As well as 6 batsmen in the series averaging over 60 with 10 centuries scored.

Not what I would define as 'Green'..........

Then as for the preparation of a rank turner which would probably mean three day Test matches. You know that with everything to do with Indian Cricket being governed by money meaning gate receipts will be their major motivation dictating that this will not be allowed.

Throw in the ICC outrage over a traditional Asian pitch at Galle last year, and you know their is more hope of Katrina Kaif returning my phone calls than this type of pitch being prepared.

So expect pitches similar to the ones in the Pakistan/England series that gave everyone a chance to excel with them favouring no one.


The Squads

India

India squad for first two Tests


MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Zaheer Khan


Keep in mind this is only a squad for the first two Tests and some of the names we might see in the series are as follows

Pankaj Singh- A big hearted quick bowler with the ability to swing it both ways

Ashok Dinda- India's best performed fast bowler in First Class Cricket with a stand out performance for East Zone with 26/7 against South Zone in the Semi Final of the Duleep Trophy

Manoj Tiwary- A classy middle order batsman that can bowl useful leg spin and fields very well

Robin Bist- A class batsman with a traditional technique and old style temperament


England

Alastair Cook (Essex, captain), James Anderson (Lancashire) ,Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Nick Compton (Somerset) , Steven Finn (Middlesex), Graham Onions (Durham), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Monty Panesar (Sussex) , Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire), Kevin Pietersen (Surrey)*Matt Prior (Sussex) Joe Root (Yorkshire) Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire) Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)

Crucially in the lead up to this 4 Test series Steve Finn has strained a thigh which will at the least rule him out of the first two Tests, and maybe the series. Stuart Meaker, a skiddy fast bowler that can zip it through at 90mph has been included as his replacement

Assessing the teams Batting 

India

It is almost surreal how quickly things have changed in my mind with me only a year ago comparing the Indian batting line up to being in the mix as one of the best batting line ups in the games history

Now with the huge hole left from the retirements of icons Rahul Dravid and Very Very Special Laxman coupled with the diminished form of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir it looks very ordinary.

Shockingly, none of these three icons have averaged over 28 in 2012 with no centuries!

The Team has been carried by the form of youngsters Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli which gives great comfort for the future, but it a real worry in the present.

With both players being fabulous talents, but both young, and the tyranny that goes with youth is always inconsistency. Meaning to have the Teams batting success rest on their continued excellence of relative babes is an accident waiting to happen.

Crucially the under performing veterans need to lift in this series starting from the top. With Sehwag, who has always relied on his eye for his destructive prowess seemingly has lost that focus and without an adequate technique or footwork to fall back on has been exposed. Robbing India of the part of their batting that many saw as its most crucial. His opening partner Gautam Gambhir is a true mystery with him going from a true run machine rivalling Alastair Cook in that pedigree to on the verge of obscurity.

All after being married!

Oh Mrs Gambhir....what have you done to 'Gauti'! 


I have been married 3 times and am not going to speculate over this in the slightest...........................

Then there is Sachin...........it is foolish to ever write off a Master, but he does not look good, and gets to face a real nemesis in this series in James Anderson.

He simply needs to lift for the Team to be successful in this series

Away from the form worries of the incumbents the make up of the top 6 is also being debated.

With most assuming that Yuvraj Singh will be slotted in at 6, but with the Selection of Ajiinkya Rahane in the squad and the recent success Virender Sehwag had for Delhi when reverted to 6. You might see Rahane form a new opening partnership with Gambhir and Sehwag bat at 6 in the hope of him rediscovering the form that brutalised attacks every where and anywhere

Rating:


5/10-


You can never doubt the immense class in the line up, and they could re-find the touch that made them great. But at present, the batting line up is a bit like a piece of Swiss Cheese with many holes in it

Key Man- Gautam Gambhir 

Loved this guy when I first saw him for he had the technique, temperament and a real bit of mongrel in him ( mongrel is Aussie slang for real fight ). When I saw him run into Shane Watson a few years back......wow!

But of late he has disappeared without a trace which is truly bizarre!

If he can rise here, it will be a huge fillip for Team India

England


After the English batting feasted in 2011 they were made to look like impostors by spin in 2012 with all having their pants pulled down against it

None of the top 6 have an average above 42 this year and with how clueless they looked against spin you have to question their ability to rise in this series

As you dissect their almost farcical efforts against the tweekers you are compelled to be critical of their tactics against it. With t
heir admiral pro active demeanour that has led them to the games summit through positive play being replaced with a passive acceptance of a reality that could have been challenged.
I say this for most of the English batsmen are expert accumulators, but in that series against Pakistan they just allowed themselves to be strangled. Through them having no courage to use their feet to try to break up the fields which would have assisted in their beloved tippidy runs ways 

They have a perfect opportunity in this series with them needing to get into the head of Indian Captain M.S.Dhoni. Who never needs an excuse to be defensive and has a love affair with in/out fields.

Meaning that if England can see this reality they will avoid the strangulation they were victimised by against Pakistan as well as finding a way to try to exploit the relative inexperience in the Indian spinning ranks.

Like the Indian's, the English top 6 is in relative flux with questions over who will be retired Andrew Strauss's replacement at the top as well as two positions in the middle order open.  It seems Nick Compton will be the new opener which is a concern for he is too like for like with Cook's dourness, and if they get bogged down you can see it impact on the rest of the batting

In the middle order Samit Patel will bat at 6 and Johnny Bairstow at 5 with both talents, but unproven commodities in the Test arena


Rating- 3/10 


Been terrible all year, and embarrassing against spin.

But like India, have such class in their line up that could just wake up


Key Man- Alastair Cook
The man known as 'The cookie Monster' in honour of his ravenous appetite for runs has been dieting in 2012. But with him assuming the Captaincy, you know it will represent a rocket up his rear end to excel in this series. And not only dominate, but set out a more positive mindset in the English batting against spin for all to follow.

Assessing the Teams Bowling

India

I actually have a real concern about the Indian bowling even in conditions that are touted to suit.

With the Team always being so reliant on Zaheer Khan to not only be the spearhead of its attack, but also the leader in it.

You always knew when India was under the pump with an opposition batting side on top 'Zaks' would be the one to get the break through and flip the coin in India's favour.

He has been selected in this series, but has an injury concern over him, and looks a shadow of the bowler he once was.

Most will think as they read this what the 'bejesus' am I going on about with the only thing that matters in this series being spin, spin and more spin....

Which is a reality, but the success of spin is dictated to by the situations that they get to bowl in with the pace men having a huge influence on this with their decisiveness with the new ball.

England's batting will be a whole different proposition if the spinners come on with them at 20/2 in comparison to 80/1

Underlining the importance of a strike bowler

In this search, Umesh Yadav shows promise, but is still young and very green and then there is Ishant Sharma, who should have been preparing for an upcoming Ranji game rather than a Test for you can only take so much frustration!

It might be wise for the Indians to really make this all about spin and play three spinners with one opening the bowling like Pakistan did against England with Hafeez.

For the series will be decided by who holds the whip handle when the spinners come on

Rating- 4/10 ( 7/10 with a fit and firing Zaheer Khan )


Without Zaheer they lack a spearhead and a respected leader which will make it immeasurable harder for the inexperienced spin duo to excel.

Key Man- M.S.Dhoni


I nominate the Indian Skipper as the bowling units key man for he can have a huge effect over its success with his tactics. The key to England being brought to its knees by Pakistan was not only the skill of their spinners, but the tactics that accentuate the bowlers skills. Through the English scoring rates being cut off and it exposing their lack of courage to use their feet.

If Dhoni employs his normal in/out fields, he will kill the spinners effectiveness before a ball is bowled

England 


The English attack is both varied and indeed very destructive through its balance in both pace and spin.

Sadly Steve Finn, who loomed as a potential wrecking ball through the Indian batting line up with his pace, bounce and fire received a thigh strain and is out for the first two Tests

But it still leaves a potential trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan, who all are proven forces in the Test game

The key in this series will be how their spinners go against batsmen who traditionally maul even the best spinners.

Graeme Swann will be the focus with him being quite refined in his past adventures to Asia, and was quite impressive in the two Test series recently in Sri Lanka. He has a great chance in this series with the Indian batting being a shadow of its former self, and could become a huge factor if the pacemen get early wickets

Most would expect Monty Panesar to partner Swann throughout the series, but this would be falling for a trick that all touring Team do when they go to India by trying to beat India with spin.

When if you look at the few Teams that have been successful in India they have been lead by pacemen dominating and spinners supporting.

Just revert back to 2004/5, where Australia was triumphant behind Jason Gillespie running amok or in 1999/00 when Shaun Pollock was a similar wrecking ball for the victorious South Africans.

Rating- 8/10 ( 9/ 10, if Steve Finn was fit )


Very balanced line up in both pace and spin that can get 20 wickets against any line up in any conditions

Key Man- Stuart Broad 


I think he is England's best all round bowler with him being effective despite the conditions. He needs to be the strike bowler that he has been renowned for, and if he is it will feather the nest for others like Graeme Swann to be effective

Prediction

If I could believe the talk in the lead up to this series of the pitches being 'raging turners' I would be in no doubt that India would win, and win easily.

But you know that talk is a load of crap, and that the pitches will be batting friendly with a little support on day 4/5 for spin.

Meaning the series will be decided by the bowlers....

So with me having 0 faith in India's attack to get 20 wickets without Zaheer Khan at his best in comparison to England's attack being very strong.

I am tipping a shock 2/1 result in England's favour

5 comments:

  1. Whatever happened to Praveen Kumar?
    Also Bell bats at 5 not Bairstow (apart from one test when he will be on paternity)

    Agree - 2-1 England.

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    1. The seems to be a Bermuda Triangle that sucks in Indian bowlers ie Praveen

      It be a great series, but England will prevail

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  2. the first test will be crucial....if india win the 1st test then it will be difficult for eng to fight back...and since the series is in india i will go with a 2-0 win for india....

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    Replies
    1. Very true my friend, the first Test will decide the series. it is crucial, and hard to see a Team coming back from if they lose

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  3. eng's batters look in good touch in the warm up games....so even though they havent faced much spin on turning tracks till now, they have got lot of confidence oozing from them....if eng win the toss and bat first in the 1st test then i see them making 350+....the toss will be crucial too, whoever wins the toss will want to bat first in all of the 4 tests...

    ReplyDelete