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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indias 2014 tour to England starts

After a long break, back to blog just before the test series against England starts. 3 years after the disastrous tour where the Indian team lost 0-4, they are off to the venues where Duncan Fletcher's horrible overseas record as Indian coach started. The team composition is different and therefore the hope is that the performances will be different as well. The Indian team has shown substance and fighting spirit during the two overseas tours (NZ and SAF) and the Indian fan must be hoping that there will be more of the same. Only difference hopefully is that the performances will translate to victories.

The Indian team, despite encouraging signs, have not been able to win any test during their overseas sojourns. The team composition was announced in late May and there were few surprises. Let us revisit the same and see how they fare up

  • Opening batsmen - M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir. I dont see any changes from the last test even though Gambhir is an established batsman in the squad. The first two warm-up matches will give an indication of who will play and who will not. Anyway, the long tour (five tests) will give enough opportunities to all concerned in case of loss of form.
  • Middle order - Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma. There is no replacement for the players who will all play in the test match. That is the biggest risk in the squad and how Dhoni will balance the risk in performance downsides will be seen. Will there be a SOS call to anyone else during the tour?
  • All-rounders - Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Stuart Binny. One of the first two named would have been a guarantee before the Bangladesh tour. But, Binny's memorable performance (6-4 in the ODI's) will give MS Dhoni a pleasant headache. Binny as an allrounder who can bowl 10 overs of pace (+ swing and seam) will be ideal in England. Look out for Binny on this tour.
  • Pace bowlers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh. This was a surprise when the tour was announced. Zaheer Khan was dropped which makes Ishant the top bowler in this tour. He will retain his place in the eleven just for Dhoni's preference but if he does not pick up his performance, there are others in the wings. Shami and Bhuvi will be the other first-choice pacers while the backup squad is also quite interesting to look out for. One wonders if Umesh Yadav was unfortunate but the players picked can be handful on their day.
  • Wicket-keepers - MS Dhoni, Wriddhiman Saha. Saha is most likely a tourist on the squad but will come in contention just in case any middle-order batsman flops continuously. Watch out for the aggressive MS Dhoni (as a batsman)!
There are two warm-up matches in the lead to the test series and these will give an insight into the selection policies that will be adopted by MSD. The matches will also give an indication to the skill and temperament of the players who will vie for the 2-3 positions that are vacant. 

My forecast - India will do well to draw the series but they will give a good fight to the young England side. The latter's experience with conditions will make them the favorites (even though the squad is relatively inexperienced at the highest level). What do you say?
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