Ex-Australia captain Ian Chappell believes India are well placed to win the Test series if they can expose England’s weaknesses during the five-match encounter.
The Indians take on Joe Root’s side with teh first Test starting in Edgbaston on August 1 with the tourists looking for their first Test series win on English soil since their 1-0 triumph in 2007. Since then they lost 4-0 in 2011 and 3-1 in 2014.
England go into the series on the back of a 1-1 Test draw with Pakistan but have problems of their own with team selection and form of key players including Alastair Cook an issue.
And Chappell believes that is a massive advantage for India.
“There’s a rare opportunity beckoning for India – the chance to beat both England and Australia in away Test series. England are in a state of flux after a devastating loss at Lord’s and then a less-than-convincing win over the predictably inconsistent Pakistan at Headingley,” Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.
“England’s top-order collapses are now a regular occurrence, which is not surprising when both opening positions are under a cloud. If it weren’t for the fact that Alastair Cook’s numerous partners have been under intense scrutiny, Cook himself would be in jeopardy.
“Two classic Cook double-centuries can’t mask the fact that in his last 29 Test innings – a period of 12 months – he has had 19 scores under 20, including ten single-figure dismissals. If an opener isn’t making centuries regularly then he has to ensure the opposition doesn’t get at the middle order while the ball is still new. Too often Cook is doing neither.”
The 74-year-old was also unconvinced by off-spinner Dom Bess, who went wicketless in the first Test against Pakistan before taking three scalps in the second.
“Smith’s (Chairman of selectors Ed Smith) other notable choice in his selection debut was off-spinner Dom Bess, an energetic and effervescent cricketer.
“His batting and desire to be involved in the contest are laudable but the early signs are that his offspin won’t threaten an Indian team bred on facing this type of bowler regularly. In one over at Headingley, Bess delivered more full tosses than R Ashwin offers up in a year, a prospect that players like Virat Kohli and M Vijay should be relishing.”
But he believes James Anderson, who will miss six weeks after deciding to rest his long-standing shoulder injury, will be crucial for England.
“Apart from the openers’ batting, England’s other major problem on the tour of Australia and New Zealand was that the pace attack comprised all right-arm bowlers of similar speed.
“Their inability to unearth a genuine pace bowler is a greater problem when they are overseas, but if the late UK summer is hot and dry, they will also need someone who can shake things up on home pitches in an attempt to dramatically change the course of a game.
“There is no doubt that the swing bowling of Jimmy Anderson will present the Indian line-up with a serious challenge, and if there’s movement off the seam, Stuart Broad will also be a handful. Nevertheless India have the stronger batting line-up of the two teams and their variety in attack could help negate England’s middle-order strength if the openers continue to fail.”
Turning out for Sussex, Ishant excelled in English conditions as he ended his two-month stint with 23 wickets in the County Championship Division Two and Royal London One-Day Cup. In the course of his stay, the India man also registered his maiden first-class half-century after scoring 66 runs against Leicestershire.
Still 29 years of age despite being around in international cricket for more than a decade, the lanky pacer’s Sussex stint should hold him in good stead for India’s upcoming tour of England.
With India slated to play five Tests against the Englishmen, we take a look at why Ishant can be the ace in the pack for Virat Kohli.
FAMILIARITY WITH CONDITIONS
One of the main reasons Kohli was desperate to turn out for Surrey in the County Championship was to gain familiarity with the seaming pitches after previously struggling in England.
While Kohli’s stint never came to fruition, Ishant’s highly impressive one could have a big impact in the five-match Test series.
Recently, Pakistan seamer Mohammad Abbas played county cricket Leicestershire in the Division Two. he then went on to shine for Pakistan in their tour of England where he picked up a four-wicket haul in each innings in the Lord’s Test to lead his side to a nine-wicket win.
Ishant will be hoping to replicate Abbas’ success when he returns to England later.
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN ENGLAND
Ishant has already been a part of two previous Indian team tours to England in 2011 and 2014. Though his 25 wickets in seven Tests in England have come at an unremarkable average of over 40, the pacer has been unlucky to go wicket-less on many occasions despite bowling beautifully.
In 2014, he led India to only their second Test win at Lord’s in over 82 years with career-best figures of 7-74 in the second innings. That was India’s first overseas Test victory in more than three years after a disastrous run.
He will be the senior-most India pacer on the tour by all accounts and his previous experience will be invaluable for Kohli’s men.
While his numbers after 81 Tests for India are nothing to celebrate about, Ishant has transitioned excellently from a strike-bowler in his younger days to a workhorse.
His ability to bowl consistent lengths for long spells tirelessly has made him a permanent fixture in India’s Test squad despite the emergence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and more recently Jasprit Bumrah.
Ishant has learned the art of holding down one end and building pressure while the likes of Bhuvneshwar and Shami do the damage at the other end.
It is a role Peter Siddle performed admirably for Australia some years ago and it could just be what is needed for India when they set foot in England.
Arjun, 18, has started to make his presence felt in domestic cricket. The left arm fast bowler, also a handy batsman, has picked up 18 wickets from five domestic matches at the U-19 level.
He has also rubbed shoulders with the very best. Last year, he bowled at the nets ahead of the Lord’s Test between England and South Africa. There, he pinned England batsman Jonny Bairstow on his toe with a yorker that required medical attention. Arjun has also bowled to Virat Kohli at the Indian team nets.
It is understandable Arjun will be compared to his father with expectations sky high. However, Arjun does have a few advantages at the beginning of his career that his father didn’t have. Here we look at them.
PASS THROUGH AGE CRICKET
Arjun Tendulkar is all set to play Under-19 cricket for India. Interestingly, his father, Sachin Tendulkar never played any age group cricket for India!— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) June 8, 2018
At 16 he was already a Test player!😊
Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut at the age of 16. His opening match was against Pakistan in Karachi against Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and a debutant quick -Waqar Younis. Yes, at 16. Sachin was fast-tracked to the toughest possible arena for an Indian cricketer when most boys are just coming to grips with life. There simply was not time for Sachin to work his way to the top level.
Luckily, Arjun has that opportunity. He has played Mumbai U14s, U16s and U19s and is now part of India’s U19 side. That should give him ample time to prepare for tougher challengers while working on his game.
The current set-up in Indian cricket is excellent. Young cricketers have numerous avenues from where they can climb the ladder and make a name for themselves. Venues, facilities, support structure, training methods and qualified personnel are right up there with what the world has to offer. All a kid has to do is show discipline and get on with the job.
Sachin did not have that luxury. Polishing his game in the dusty maidans of Mumbai, Sachin developed on the basis of his talent and dedication because the cricketing infrastructure in India in the 1980s was some way behind the rest of the world. The country still produced quality cricketers then but now the set-up is so efficient that more players from remote corners of India are getting a break.
THE FINEST MINDS IN THE WORLD
Arjun routinely finds himself in the midst of some of the finest cricketing brains in the world. Not only his father one of the greatest players in history, he gets to bowl to the Indian team, talk to icons like Wasim Akram and Virat Kohli about his game and then bowl to England batsmen at nets in London. Now which teenage cricketer wouldn’t want that.
Sachin did not have any of this and it is understandable as he was just his name and runs when he started as a 16 year old in Test cricket. Whatever he picked up came while he was playing competitively at the higher level.