India-England series is an extremely important series for both the sides because the number one Test status is at stake. And more importantly, both sides are perhaps the most improved sides in the last 24 months and this series would go a long way in asserting their supremacy in Test cricket.
For India, it`s a golden opportunity to win one more overseas series, for we may find it difficult to achieve these rare feats post the retirement of our senior pros.
Of course India can beat England but it won`t happen without a lot of resolve. We will have to outplay the hosts in all three departments to get an upper hand. Though England are a strong Test team and are really tough to beat at home conditions, we have the resources to not only to push them but steal a march over them.
India`s strength is their middle order and pace attack. The middle order has a wealth of experience and will make England`s job tougher to take 20 wickets. And our fast bowling is at par with our opponents.
If any batting line-up in the world can tame English bowling attack, it has to be ours. We have people of very high pedigree in the batting order. Yes, bounce and sideways movement will be a concern at the beginning of the series but I expect our batting to come really good as the tour progresses.
Our weaknesses, if any, would be the inexperienced opener in Abhinav Mukund and Gautam Gambhir`s return from injury and lack of experience in English conditions. But to top it all, the absence of Sehwag can really trouble India as he can demoralize the oppositions in the early overs.
Though some people are questioning the inclusion of injured Sehwag in the team, it’s too early to call the whether it is a wrong decision. If Mukund fails in the first Test, we may feel the need of an extra opener in the squad. But the moment Viru is fit, he should take to the field.
England`s biggest strength, on the contrary, is their belief that they can win, for they were victims of self-doubts for way too long. Their batting and bowling complement that mindset too. To top it all, the home conditions give them a slight edge over India. They don`t have any glaring weaknesses but this series would be test of their character.
England`s meteoric rise in cricket isn`t a coincidence but the outcome of a well planned program. With Andy Flower at the helm and Allan Donald mentoring for a while, they managed to instil the much needed self-belief. There`s been consistency in selection and the results have vindicated that approach.
Another interesting aspect is that the series will settle the debate of who is currently the best spinner in the world- Harbhajan Singh or Graeme Swann. Both are quality operators and will be up against some quality batsmen. Since Bhajji is the senior citizen amongst the two, the pressure will be a lot more on him to deliver. Also he`d be bowling to batsmen who are not the most proficient against spin bowling. On the contrary, Swann will be bowling to the best players of spin on this planet. The only factor favouring him is his knowledge of home conditions.