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India’s tour to England in 2011 was an unmitigated disaster for the visitors. From arriving in England as world champions in ODIs and the No 1 ranked Test team to leaving the British Isles without a single victory, India would best like to forget the sojourn entirely. Shiamak Unwalla looks at whether the past will repeat itself in India’s tour of England in 2014.
Zaheer Khan to Alastair Cook, oh he’s got his man! Cook departs LBW to Zaheer, India have drawn first blood. England are 19 for one now. Good first session for India, England have struggled to score runs. Zaheer has bowled beautifully.
Zaheer Khan to Andrew Strauss, short ball and he’s picked out the fielder! Strauss gets a top-edge on the pull and Ishant Sharma completes a simple catch. India are on fire and Zaheer has his second victim. England 62 for two and in dire need of recovery.
Zaheer Khan into his 14th over. Oh dear, he seems to have pulled a muscle. Wait, he’s walking off the field just three balls into his over. Zaheer can’t bowl any more in this tour. India have lost their spearhead in the second session of the series. The rest of their bowlers really need to step up now.
England went from 62 for two to 474 for eight declared. Kevin Pietersen got 202 not out. India went on to lose the match by 196 runs. Losing your best bowler after he sends down less than 14 overs will inevitably result in such an eventuality. Rahul Dravid’s century in the first innings and Praveen Kumar’s five-for were the two highlights of the game for India, but that was a mere consolation prize.
India lost the second Test by 319 runs — incidentally the score Virender Sehwag made against South Africa in Chennai in 2008 — after they failed to close out the English tail when they had the hosts on the mat. The last four batsmen of England’s line-up scored 247 runs in that match. The entire Indian team combined could manage only 158 runs in their second innings.
India’s third Test was even more horrendous. Batting first, the much-awaited return of Sehwag ended in anti-climatic fashion as he was out first ball — in both innings! The king pair from Sehwag echoed India’s fortune throughout that series. Much anticipation, tremendous potential and a screaming failure. Cook made 294 as England got to 710 for seven. On a pitch where Praveen scored 40 off 18 deliveries, none of India’s batsmen barring MS Dhoni [who made two] got a fifty. India crashed and burned to defeat by an innings and 242 runs.
The fourth Test was almost a formality at this point. India were stalked, hunted and devoured by an English side in much the same way the Great White Shark from Jaws terrorises the protagonists of the film. Ian bell got a double hundred — during which he was run out, but recalled by Dhoni because Bell “thought it was time for tea so just kept walking” — and Pietersen hit a brutal 175. India managed to get to 300 for the first time that series — but couldn’t get a run more than that — before being bundled out for 283 following on. India had lost the series 4-0, and have yet to win a Test overseas since then.
Since then, India’s line-up has seen a sea-change. Only Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli — who was called up as cover for the senior players —remain from that fateful tour. However, Saha and Kohli did not play a game.
India may not have won their series against South Africa and New Zealand, but their performances in both series were far from shambolic. Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli are by far the best young Test batsmen in the world. Both scored runs in those tours, and will be keen to get a few more in England.
Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have been in indifferent form, but the latter has a history of scoring runs in England, with a tremendous ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane have looked good in the limited opportunities they have had so far, with the latter in particular playing some excellent innings in South Africa and New Zealand.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are both quality lower order batsmen — Ashwin averages 39.4 in Tests, more than even Dhoni — apart from being the spinning options. The recent rise of Stuart Binny means that India even has a pace-bowling all-rounder should they choose to take a gamble with him. The pace attack is almost entirely different, with only Ishant being a common factor. Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Pankaj Singh look like the likely starters for India based on their performances in the warm-up games. They are all very different bowlers to each other, and have the potential to take quick wickets.
On the whole, this Indian side looks better equipped, and more importantly mentally fresh compared to the 2011 squad. With a younger, hungrier side that will not have the emotional or mental scarring — but will be thirsty for revenge against a considerably weaker side — of the last tour, the ghosts of the past could well be exorcised this time around.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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