Summer of hope for India against England, writes Aakash Chopra

Jul 07, 2014, 08:27 IST | Aakash Chopra

With both teams passing through transition, India will fancy their chances in the series against England, writes Aakash Chopra

The summer of 2011 — India had Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Zaheer and Dhoni, possibly their best ever line-up. Each of these stars had played enough international cricket at that stage and, more importantly, had played enough in England to foresee what was in store for them.

Skipper MS Dhoni (left) and coach Duncan Fletcher will have their task cut out in the five-Test series. Pic/Getty Images
Skipper MS Dhoni (left) and coach Duncan Fletcher will have their task cut out in the five-Test series. Pic/Getty Images 

This was also the time India had just won the ODI World Cup, raising hopes of the beginning of a new era: an era of India's worldwide dominance, across all formats, or so we in India thought. That summer turned out to be the harshest ever with the first chance of shedding the 'poor tourists' tag been blown to pieces.

India had won the Test series in England in 2007 and a good 2011 was needed to prove that the previous triumph wasn't a fluke. However, India failed to win a single game, across all formats, on that tour. But that's only a page in the history of Indian cricket now.

The Indian team is in the middle of a transition and so is England, and both have shown early promise. However, while the new Indian side can still boast of a handsome home record, the English team can't do the same after the loss to Sri Lanka.

That sets up this second half of the English summer very nicely, for India will see it as an opportunity to repeat the heroics of 2007 and England would want to dislodge any assumptions of their team losing ground, even at home.

Learn from Lanka
India can take a cue from what Sri Lanka did to create history — runs on the board and bowlers hunting in a pack. Just like India, Sri Lanka didn't have a world-class bowling attack.

Had they depended on individual brilliance with the ball to win the series, they wouldn't have managed to win the Test at Headingly. Only one five-wicket haul and that too in the last innings of the tour is a testimony to their teamwork.

They didn't hunt like tigers but as a pack of wolves — plugging away consistently and making the most of every opportunity coming their way.

That's what the Indian bowling attack must also do, for India too doesn't have a very potent combination. Test matches are won by taking 20 wickets and India came very close to winning a Test each in SA and NZ but couldn't finish things off because the bowlers simply ran out of steam. Hence it would be prudent to play five bowlers.

Time to make amends
Dhoni must instill more faith in his own batting and put himself at No 6, which will then allow him to play five specialist bowlers with Ashwin or Jadeja or both as bowling all-rounders. Dhoni has never scored a Test ton outside the subcontinent and this tour might be a great time for him to rectify that record.

As regards the Indian batting, it should do better than it did last time around, for this young crop of Indian batsmen have shown technique and resilience to do well in unfamiliar conditions.

Even though India didn't win a Test in South Africa and New Zealand, they crossed the 350-run mark more than the famed Indian batting line-up did in England and Australia put together. They might start slowly — like all Indian teams — but Pujara and Kohli will come into their own much before the series gets over.

Conditions a challenge
The biggest challenge for the Indian batsmen is to get used to the conditions, for it takes a long time to shed the habit of planting the front-foot and playing through the line. This will happen by and by. For now, let the games begin.

The writer is a former India Test opener 

The scoreline of India's last Test tour to England in 2011 

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