Preview: India’s Tour Of England 2014

India squad
M. Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (Cp, Wk), R. Ashwin, B. Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Saha, Pankaj Singh
Players with England Test Experience (scarred from previous 0-4 mauling in 2011): MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma
Inexperience could be one of the prime reasons this young Indian team passes the test on their first overseas tour since New Zealand. On the back of losing back to back tours abroad in South Africa and New Zealand, they now enter the den where it all started back in 2011 when they were fresh ‘World Champions’. The slide began with a devastating 0-4 whitewash in England, where Rahul Dravid remained the only player to come out of it with his head held high (3 centuries). 
For starters, this is the best time for an opponent to tour England. A Sri Lankan team—as unbelievable as it sounds—beat England in their own back yard for their first ever win on English soil 0-1 in Tests, after a one-day series victory. Sri Lanka have been on a high ever since they won the Asia Cup, following it with a World T20 victory, a Bangladesh series victory and now England, but even with their drastically limited test bowling attack—they defeated an English side in utter disarray. England are now where India was two years ago in Test doldrums, with no idea of the near future and controversies galore. This is not to say that India is in a better state, but they certainly boast of more exciting players and a virtually unrecognizable team from three years ago. 
 
FACTS
India have not won an away test for 3 years. 
India reaches 3 weeks before the first test to acclimatize and play 2 practice matches. 
England have not won any of their last 3 Test series. 
India is ranked 5 in Tests now. 
This is India’s first 5-match Test series since 2002 against West Indies. 
 
 
Let us take a look at the Indian potential starting XI for the first test at Trent Bridge on July 9th:
 
M. Vijay: Looks solid at the beginning of every test series and towards the end, but fails to maintain any solidity or momentum. Needs to be more consistent and put more runs to that enormous talent and shot-making ability. This is his best chance. 
 
S. Dhawan: Has been scratchy lately, and blasted his way into desperate form in the IPL. Was actually dropped from the ODI side before coming back, and will be aware that his place is in jeopardy now that another experienced left-hander (Gambhir) is in the squad. Needs to be more careful in his approach, and returns to where it all re-began for him. England. 
 
C. Pujara: Has been off lately, and hasn’t made the most out of the ODI opportunities either. Remains a test player, but failed in New Zealand when the team needed him. Will look to roar back into form where his predecessor had his final hurrah in a heroic lone-man-standing effort. Needs to correct the angle he brings down his bat in, much like Kohli did at the beginning. 
 
V. Kohli: Is India’s best batsman, in all formats. Had a lean IPL but that makes no difference to his ability to score a test century in every country. He will look to conquer England on his first outing here, after he was dropped from the test team for 2011 due to a bad West Indies tour. Will, in all likelihood, emerge top scorer. 
 
Rohit Sharma: Shaky two tours overseas after a perfect start at home in Tendulkar’s farewell series. Will look to reverse trends and improve his technique against the swinging ball. At no. 5 though, I have my doubts about where he should bat, now that Rahane is in the side too. 
 
A. Rahane: Emerged underdog hero in South Africa and New Zealand, batting with the tail like VVS Laxman used to do so well. He is better suited to tests than limited overs cricket, and has found a place in the lower middle order. 
 
MS Dhoni: His test form has always been questionable, but India will look to him as a leader more than anything else. This could be his last (England) tour as Captain before the upcoming double-trouble Australia tour and World Cup, and he will look to make things right along with coach Fletcher. A series win could go a long way in sealing his scratchy test legacy. 
R. Ashwin/R. Jadeja: Both of them are equally likely to play as the lone spinner. Ashwin’s away form is horrible, while Jadeja is more of the Kumble that India needs—relentless, accurate and quick. Will be interesting to see who ends up playing more tests this series. 
 
B. Kumar: India’s best bowler right now. Had an awesome IPL, but his test form is in the balance. He will be in extremely favourable conditions—swing, seam and accuracy being his strengths. Will look to emulate predecessor P. Kumar who was noteworthy on the previous tour here. Needs to be India’s wickettaker, despite lack of pace. 
 
M. Shami: Has to make sure he doesn’t fade away like Umesh Yadav, and take care of his body through the 5-test series. His pace is fading a bit, but these conditions could be the tonic he needs. Is capable of shattering 4-over spells that changes games, and needs to be more frequent lest he ends up like another Ishant Sharma. 
 
Varun Aaron: Raw, unrestrained pace. That is all India needs from him. Accuracy be damned. 
12th man: Stuart Binny
 

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