India is likely to do better in 2014 © Getty Images
India begin their marathon tour of England with a warm-up match against Leicestershire on Thursday. Team India, infused with young talent and on a roll after good performances in recent months, promises a tough challenge to a rebuilding England side. Looking at the build-up that these two sides have had to this series, this time around the bilateral affair could be a lot different from their previous one, says Devarchit Varma.
Last time when India toured England in 2011, it was a nightmarish tour. The Indian team, which was coming off from a successful series in the West Indies, and having won the ICC World Cup 2011, was riding high on confidence, and it looked like that there was no stopping this Indian team. However, the English camp, under the guidance of Andy Flower and the leadership of Andrew Strauss, was determined to dethrone India from their top spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings. What followed was such disastrous tour that India were pummelled 4-0 in the Test series, and failed to win a single game during their stay.
The Indian team has landed in England once again, this time for a tour that will last two-and-a-half-months. There are five Test matches, five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and a one-off Twenty20 (T20). The team’s progress will certainly be tested by an English side that is in a rebuilding phase. But the humiliation that they were subjected to in 2011 will be at the back of the heads of many Indian cricketers and supporters.
Revenge could be on the minds of Indian cricketers, but this series will definitely be a lot different from the one that was in 2011. Let’s see the reasons why:
India are young and fresh, not jaded as they were last time around: When India had landed in England in 2011, they were jaded. They had had a grilling World Cup tournament, followed the Indian Premier League (IPL), and then a tour of the West Indies. While senior players Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman were rested from the series in the Caribbean, the break actually did not help India much. The scene this time around is completely different. The major chunk of players were not there in the bilateral ODI series against Bangladesh, and are coming off after a long break since the end of IPL 2014. They are physically and mentally fresh, and moreover they are not coming off a losing streak like their opponents, England. Negativity plays big role in times like this, and India certainly look more positive here.
Both the sides are minus their star performers: While the likes of Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Laxman and Zaheer Khan are not there in the Indian team, England too will be missing Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and the leader they had in Strauss.
England are going through a rebuilding process, and they lack the firepower they had last time: All those who had followed the 2011 series closely would agree that England were at the peak of their performance in that series. They addressed the smallest of the details, and on the back of some excellent performances they were able to crush India. Right now, England are not even in proper shape. They are struggling in the rebuilding phase, having lost in Australia and recently to Sri Lanka at home. The form of senior players such as Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Matt Prior isn’t great either.
MS Dhoni and Alastair Cook – contrasting past as captains: India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and England’s Alastair Cook have had contrasting build-ups to this series. While India were the runners-up in the ICC World T20 2014 tournament in Bangladesh, they showed positive signs during their tour of South Africa and New Zealand. Dhoni too has been slightly successful with the bat. On the other hand, Cook has flopped in the past couple of months, both as a captain and batsman, and this series could make or break his future as England captain. Dhoni has absolutely no burden on him apart from the memories of the past England tour, whereas Cook has to address a thousand things.
India have memories of the past, no one would like a repeat: India suffered an 8-0 thrashing last time. When India had slipped to their lowest ebb in Test cricket couple of seasons back, it all had started in England. The Indian team was thrown out of its comfort zone and England had ripped them off with all the pride they had. The memories of that thrashing could still be fresh in the minds of those who were there. India would certainly not like to have a repeat of any of that.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)