The Battle Begins…

The battle between the no1 team and the no3 teams begins this Thursday and I’ve been reading a lot of posts on this much anticipated series. The hype cannot be ignored and I fear that given English weather it might turn out to be a dampener just as  the WI one was.

I can sense the haughtiness and discomfort in the English media – it is such a tough task accepting India as Numero Uno in both forms of the game.

But I did see a couple of posts that make English fans realize the importance of playing this Indian Team. Oliver Brett echoes my thoughts to a tee on why England needs to look beyond the Ashes and The Old Batsman puts things into perspective on why this Indian team represents the golden era of Indian cricket something that the Brits have not had in a while.

Since Jul96 – England have played Aus 8 times and beaten them thrice; in the same period they have played India 5 times and not beaten them even once. Yes, it’s indeed time they looked beyond the Ashes because they are now meeting the reigning World Cup Champions and the Test No 1 team. Pretty much the same credentials as their traditional rivals whom England were obsessed about beating. Time to shift focus and not take India lightly.

For the first test in my view, England have the distinct edge. No Sehwag – it affects the entire strategy and psychology of the Indian Team. We may deny it but it does, else the 3rd test in Dominica would’ve have told a different story.

Mukund is new and raw and struggled in WI. England’s pace attack of Anderson and Tremlett is going to cause much more worry than we anticipate given the English conditions. Gambhir is coming off an injury, Dravid is not his fluent best, Sachin and VVS are the only ones who look good to thrive in any pressure thrown at them. Raina/Yuvi at 6 will not matter though I will want Raina considering the good series he had in WI and as far as I’m concerned Yuvi is a complete no-go for test match cricket. Dhoni is not reliable and the rest pretty much  the same in the batting department. Although, I may add that the bowling looks good enough to unsettle the English batsman.

History though is against us, India has never done well at Lords – we have won 1 match out of 15 and that match was 25 years ago. Add to it that it is the first test and we are still very poor starters – remember the 89-6 against the WI recently,and 136 all out Vs SA at Centurion Dec2010. Yes, we are like that only.

England on the other hand come full strength with Cook, Trott and Bell in fine form since last Ashes and that implies we must be prepared for the leather chase ahead of us. I won’t be relaxed if I knew I’d be facing Anderson and Tremlett bowling in tandem on their home surface. I know Anderson can be shite one day and unbelievable another; but he has the ability to turn it around in a moment and that is the moment I’d rather not see this series. Swann maybe one of the best spinners we have seen in this game – but he is no threat for India. If Warne and Murali weren’t, I don’t see why Swann will be any different. I’d love to see Strauss pick Bresnan over Broad but Broad’s batting prowess might just push him through in all likelihood.

As I said there is a lot of talk about the series, about the LORDS test match – the 2000th test, the 100th between Eng and India and all the focus on Sachin’s 100th 100,Strauss becoming Zak’s bunny, about Trott making India pay, about Tremlett wanting seaming wickets, about  Dravid turning it around this series and all that jazz.

But what  I really want is VVS Laxman to do well in this series; for England really hasn’t been his favourite hunting ground or team.He seems to reserve his best for the best. He averages an abysmal 34 against Eng Vs his career average of 47 and an average of 55 against Aus.

This time around like England needs to acknowledge India’s greatness, VVS Laxman needs to acknowledge that England is a fitting opponent who deserves nothing less than a century from him.

He simply cannot bid farewell without getting a 100 against the Poms, yes it is that important to me; more important than that Sachin ton of tons.