Payback time as India seek England Test revenge
TOP-RANKED India will look to settle old scores, unleashing their spinners on a fragile-looking England when the first Test of a five-match series begins in Rajkot tomorrow. England were the last team to win a Test series on Indian soil, coming from behind to triumph 2-1 in 2012 but India are currently enjoying an impressive run.
Talismanic captain Virat Kohli has scored two Test double centuries this year and has led his side to four series wins in a row after taking over the captaincy in 2015.
Recent victories, including a whitewash of New Zealand, have not only dimmed memories of three consecutive Test series defeat to England – in 2011, 2012 and 2014 – but also whetted India’s appetite for revenge.
Their prospects have been boosted by the recently sparkling form of Ravichandran Ashwin, who became the second quickest bowler to reach 200 wickets during India’s 3-0 demolition of the Black Caps.
The off-spinner will look to exploit an England batting line-up that struggled on slow and low pitches during their recent tour of Bangladesh, which saw them lose to the Test newcomers for the first time.
“Ashwin is a good bowler. He uses his variations very well, especially the way he approaches the crease. He’s always looking to attacking and outfox a batsman,” former England star Kevin Pietersen told The Cricketer magazine.
Alastair Cook’s men, fourth in the world rankings, were cut down to size by teenage Bangladeshi spinner Mehedi Hasan who bagged 19 wickets from the two games last month.
The second Test upset also reminded England of shortcomings in their own spinning department but Cook said he was confident that Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and rookie Zafar Ansari would deliver, despite just having 105 wickets between them.
England have also brought back 39-year-old Gareth Batty while Pakistan great Saqlain Mushtaq is on-hand to mentor the spinners as they confront a formidable Indian batting line-up.
Mushtaq is likely to have a calming effect in a dressing room, and Cook believes his side will bounce back from the Bangladesh defeat.
“Every time this side has been questioned we’ve always found a way of improving,” he said.
England’s middle-order also looks shaky with Gary Ballance averaging just 18 in his last eight innings.
Their pace department will also suffer from the absence of Jimmy Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker with 463, who has recovered from a shoulder injury but not in time for the first Test.
India have some nagging concerns at the top of the batting order. Despite trying out five different combinations in their last 14 Tests, India have failed to post a century opening partnership.
Adding spice to the series is the decision review system (DRS) which India have agreed to use for the first time on a trial basis after resisting it for so long.
The Rajkot match will be followed by Tests in Visakhapatnam, Mohali, Mumbai and Chennai. –
Indian bowler Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates the wicket of NZ batsman James Neesham in the third Test cricket match on October 10.