With less than two hours to go before India kick off their first five test series since 2002, we're bracing up for a battle of attrition between two extremely conservative, defensive captains. Personally, I'm bracing for an egg in the face after previous predictions spectacularly backfired.
Its hard to believe that its been just 3 years since the last time India went visiting. Of the class of 2011, there are but a handful of survivors. From the Indian side, Dhoni and Ishant Sharma are the only major survivors of the debacle of 2011. Some members of the current squad were in the reserves, but never quite got to play on that tour. England too is a vastly different side, with Strauss, Swann, Trott and Pietersen no longer available for a variety of reasons. Tim Bresnan, who tormented India in 2011 has long since slipped off the radar. In many ways, this is a new India up against a substantially changed English side.
So how do the teams measure up?
|Two Defensive Captains|
It should appear that England have the clear edge. Their batsmen have the advantage of familiarity with the conditions, unlike their Indian counterparts who (Dhoni apart), have never played a test match in England. As far as the bowling is concerned, the firm of Anderson & Co. appears, at least on paper, vastly superior to the largely unproven Indian bowlers (Ishant Sharma apart), whose combined tally of test caps in England adds up to precisely zero.
Nonetheless both sides are lead by extremely conservative captains. So much has been said about Cook's conservative captaincy, that there's nothing new to be said about it. What has frequently escaped attention is Dhoni's own anti-Clarke approach. Critics of India's bowlers seem to ignore Dhoni's negative approach. How many captains would have taken all slip fielders out with the opposition effectively -100 for 5 (as Dhoni did recently at Wellington)? What can any bowler do, when the captain gives no catchers and, worse still, sets a field that discourages him from pitching the ball up?
And that's pretty much the reason why I'm predicting an easy series win for England. Cook's conservative style and the strength of India's batting pretty much precludes any chance of a whitewash. Nonetheless, England have the firepower to take 20 wickets in a test match- I expect they'll manage it it at least two times out of five. As long as Dhoni persists with his ultra-defensive captaincy, I don't see India ever winning a test match abroad. With two conservative captains, attritional play and bore draws are pretty much what I expect (hoping, of course, that I'll be proven wrong).
And so my prediction for the series is a 2-0 victory to England.