After failing to maintain their status as the best test side in the world, England head to India in quest of lifting the team spirit, under new captain Alastair Cook, which was hugely hindered during a disappointing summer at home against South Africa.
A major boost for England will be the comeback of Kevin Pieterson, as the team will be hoping to repeat the same form shown versus the sub-continent opposition in 2011 which was an emphatic 4-0 series whitewash.
The task is surely going to be a tough one, with a settled spin duo of Ravichandaran Ashwin and Pragayan Ogha in spin conditions will surely be in India’s favour.
The most important factor will be how well the England top and middle order can cope with their nemesis of spin bowling. In addition to Ashwin and Ogha, Harbhajhan Singh makes a comeback into the test side.
The main reason for England’s downfall in their last sub-continent tour against Pakistan was their inability to deal with slow bowling. Pieterson in particular will be looking to banish his problems of playing left arm spin as he showed superb form on Friday with a retired 110.
Ahead of England’s arrival Cook commented: “We have no problems facing spin. We have done our homework in the last 12 months”.
As expected India recall the destructive Yuvraj Singh, who has been named in the squad for the first two tests, after proving his fitness recovering from germ cell cancer over the past year. Yuvraj last featured in a Test in November 2011 against West Indies in Mumbai.
England have a very difficult decision ahead of the First Test in Ahmedabad starting this Thursday. Andrew Strauss’s retirement means a new opening batsmen is needed in the starting 11. Nick Compton has shown impressive batting skills in the warm up matches, after scoring well against Mumbai A in the first warm up match, he also scored 74 in the first innings and an unbeaten 54 in the second against Haryana in the final three day warm up game.
The fast bowling department is a worry for Andy Flower and the England camp too. Stuart Broad didn’t bowl on the final day of England’s warm up against Mumbai A, scans showing bruising to his left heel but thankfully for England he has fully recovered and will play in the first test.
Steve Finn suffered a thigh injury in the first warm up match and his match fitness is an question mark so Tim Bresnan could be the replacement.
All the pressure of wicket taking will be dependent on Graeme Swann on a spinning pitch. Swann only returned back from England today, after making a trip home to be with his ill daughter.
The Indian team has problems of their own. A major concern being Zaheer Khan’s fitness status, a few weeks ago the left-arm seamer left the field with discomfort and during the domestic game for Mumbai he underwent a fitness test.
On the brighter side young batsman Virat Kohli has shown signs of being an ideal replacement for ‘the little master’ Sachin Tendulkar, who at the moment is under pressure following a disappointing run of form in his batting display.
England haven’t played at Ahmedabad stadium since their 2001/02 season tour to India, the batting line up batting amassed a total of 407 which may give the present side a sense of confidence. The much anticipated series begins on Thursday 15th November.