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London: Jul 5, 2014
India’s largely unproven attack will decide if the tourists win their forthcoming Test series in England, according to former captain Rahul Dravid. Next week sees England and India begin a five-match campaign at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground.
It was at Trent Bridge where India, under Dravid’s leadership, beat England by seven wickets in 2007 on the way to a 1-0 win in a three-match contest — one of just three Indian Test series victories on English soil. However, it was a different story in 2011, their last series in England, when India were whitewashed 4-0. Although the likes of top-order greats Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Dravid himself — who quit two years ago — have since retired, India’s batting remains their strong suit.
“I think the key is going to be the ability to take 20 wickets,” Dravid told reporters at Lord’s, where he was due to play for MCC against the Rest of the World in a match marking the ground’s bicentenary on Saturday. Back in 2007, left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan, not selected for this tour, and retired leg-spinner Anil Kumble were the central figures in India’s attack. “When we won the series here in 2007, Zaheer was exceptional but he got good support from the other guys as well,” Dravid recalled. “Anil was brilliant because he was able to control the game by keeping one end tight, “he added.
India have the experienced Ishant Sharma, the only bowler in their squad to have played a Test in England prior to this trip – as well as fellow seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Stuart Binny, son of 1983 World Cup-winning medium-pacer Roger, in their squad. Dravid said it was vital whoever among them was selected got the ball to move in the air. “All three of those seamers swung the ball in that (2007) series and if the Indians can pitch the ball up and swing it, I think they give themselves a chance.” India haven’t won a Test away from home since defeating the West Indies in June 2011 — a run now stretching to 14 matches.
But Dravid was confident India’s batsmen, including the talented Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, not forgetting captain MS Dhoni, would be up to the job. “I think most of them, whilst they’ve not played Test matches here, have been on ‘A’ tours here and they have played one-day cricket, including the Champions Trophy (which India won) last year. I see the potential for this young group of players to become a formidable batting force. “Dravid made his first tour of England in 1996, marking his Test debut with 95 at Lord’s during an innings where fellow-debutant Sourav Ganguly struck 131.
It was the start of Dravid’s cricketing love affair with England, where the composed right-hander made six hundreds — including one at Lord’s in 2011 — in 13 Tests, amassing nearly 1,400 runs at an average of more than 68. “There is a great opportunity here, a great learning experience,” said the 41-year-old Dravid, renowned for proving that steely competitiveness and a gentlemanly, courteous, approach to cricket could co-exist happily.
“I know how much I learned from my first tour of England. I went away from here a much better cricketer and better person for it,” he said. As for being back at Lord’s, Dravid added: “I love coming to this ground. I was walking over to the nets with Sachin, and we agreed there is something special about this place.” Dravid has been an advisor to the India team while they have been in England and will join up with them again ahead of the first Test, which starts on Wednesday. However, asked if he had a “mentoring role” with the squad, he laughingly replied: “We will see with the results. If it goes well, I have done it.”
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