Englandâ€™s tour to India was always going to be a big series. England, coming off a series loss in Pakistan, had it all to prove in India. A Test team has to show that it can compete in all conditions and circumstances â€“ then, and only then can it be recognized as one of the better teams of an era. India, having just lost the series in Pakistan, needed to set things straight – mouth watering prospect for a cricket fan.
Then Ashley Giles, England’s number one spinner, gets injured. Marcus Trescothick withdraws for personal reasons, Michael Vaughan, England’s inspirational captain, gets injured and finally Simon Jones, vital in the scheme of things in the subcontinent, decides to join the injury brigade.
So England’s pace attack is left with Steve Harmison (who hasn’t been as effective off late) and Matthew Hoggard (who relies on movement and wasn’t going to be the most important player in the subcontinent anyway). James Anderson, Liam Plunkett, Shaun Udal, Monty Panesar and Ian Blackwell aren’t exactly expected to set the world on fire in India. How will England then get 20 Indian wickets? It is certainly an uphill task.
A win looks improbable then. How about a draw? The English openers are likely to be Andrew Strauss (in poor form) and Alastair Cook (making his Test debut and again, not expected to set the world on fire). Kevin Pietersen still has a lot to prove. Owais Shah or Paul Collingwood (whoever is selected) do not compare to the Indian batsmen. England would have to rely on Ian Bell and some heroics from Andrew Flintoff. The more you look at the English squad, the more you realize how weak it is.
Englandâ€™s only hope would be that the young bowlers India has chosen do not fire. Two of R.P.Singh, Piyush Chawla, V.R.V.Singh and Sreesanth would be selected if India decided to go in with five bowlers. If those two do not do a satisfactory job, it will be tougher for India to take 20 wickets despite Kumble and Harbhajan being there.
The English supporters are dismayed and are expecting a 3-0 whitewash. The Indian supporters arenâ€™t pleased either. All the pressure is on India and England has nothing at stake, as Nasser Hussain so aptly puts it:
I’m quite happy for England to have these injuries because it puts the pressure back on India. They should beat England come Wednesday, so England have absolutely nothing to lose. They just need to keep their control, and keep the pressure on the opposition for as long as they can.
Even if India win the series 3-0, little credit will come there way. After all, it was only a vastly understrength English side. If England manages even a draw, it will be a great achievement for them in the face of adversity. So, Team India have nothing to gain and find themselves in a thankless situation. The supporters from both camps are exasperated at the prospect of this nothing series.