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India: 5 - England: 0

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First, let’s first look at the Test matches between India and England in this millennium.

Host Country No. of Tests Year Matches won
India England
India 3 2001 1 0
England 4 2002 1 1
India 3 2006 1 1
England 3 2007 1 0
India 2 2008 1 0
England 4 2011 0 4
India 4 2012 1 2
England 5 2014 1 3

 

India (2001, 2007, 2008) and England (2011, 2012, 2014) have won 3 Series each and 2 have been drawn. England has won 11 Tests whereas India has won only 7, thanks to two heavy defeats in England recently (4-0 in 2011 & 3-1 in 2014) where they were able to win only 1 Test compared to England’s 7 in 9 Tests.

 

England won the last 3 series against India, but India start as overwhelming favourites ahead of the 5 match series which begins in Rajkot, given the English team’s inexperience and lack of quality spin bowlers.

Pitch_turning_cricket_home_away_spinIndia recently achieved the No. 1 rank in Test Cricket while England lost their first ever Test against Bangladesh, and could have lost the series 2-0 had Bangladesh’s batsmen played a bit more sensibly in Chittagong.

As we have seen in the recent past, the pitches for Test matches in India have aided the spinners. In my book, this is the right way to go as you exploit your home advantage to ensure you win. India should look at playing 3 spinners in all matches assuming the pitches offer turn from day 1, which they ideally should.

Ashwin, Jadeja & Mishra offer variety as well. Mishra is coming off a fantastic performance in the recently concluded ODI series against New Zealand, whose batsmen were absolutely clueless against him on a turning pitch in Vishakapatnam. It will be a waste if Mishra isn’t given an opportunity to play right from the first Test itself. Only three English batsmen (Cook, Root & Bairstow) have played a Test in India before and Root & Bairstow have played just one Test each. The inexperienced batting line up of England should crumble against the Indian spinners.

Both Ashwin and Jadeja bat very well in Indian conditions and they provide the batting depth India needs if the batsmen don’t deliver. We have seen also Ashwin regularly being sent in ahead of Saha, which shows us that the team management trusts him with the bat. Mishra is also capable of playing some useful knocks with the bat. This should embolden the Indian think tank to play all 5 bowlers (3 spinners, 2 pacers) or 4 bowlers (3 spinners, 1 pacer) if they think the batting needs to be beefed up. 

Hardik Pandya has been picked in the squad for the first two Tests. If the selectors had to pick a pace bowling all rounder, you can hardly blame them as the other options are Stuart Binny and Rishi Dhawan. The idea of playing an all rounder just for the sake of it seems pointless. If the all rounder in question isn’t going to bowl more than 15 overs in the Test or get you wickets, why play him? Better to play a proper batsman like Karun Nair who could score some runs and give the team more batting depth in case of a top order collapse. Once Bhuvneshwar Kumar is fit, he should walk into the team. He has been nothing short of phenomenal in the opportunities he has got off late, AND he can also bat.

So, India could look at playing 5 bowlers (Ashwin, Jadeja, Mishra, Bhuvneshwar and Shami/Ishant) as at least 4 of those bowlers could make useful contributions with the bat.

Coming to the English bowling attack, none of the spinners in their squad have ever played a Test in India. James Anderson, who was instrumental in their win during the 2012 tour, is returning from injury and Stuart Broad does not have a great record in India (3 Tests, 2 wickets in 76 overs at an average of 145.5 and a Strike Rate of 228). India might not score 350+ every time they bat, but it will take some ordinary batting or unexpectedly good bowling from the English bowlers to restrict them to something below what England manage to score.

Given all this, it will be a big upset even if England manages to win one Test in the 5 match series. Assuming no weather interruptions or a sudden change in BCCI policy to prepare flat pitches for any of the Tests, I back India to win the series 5-0. As the top ranked team in the world, India should be ruthless and never let England back into the series after seizing the initial advantage.

 

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