Leicester: England may be low on confidence after suffering morale-hitting series defeats against Sri Lanka but India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni says playing a five-Test series against the hosts will be a new challenge with less experienced players in the side.
"They know the home conditions better than us so it will be a tough battle. And a long battle, five Tests, five ODIs and one T20I. After a long time we are playing a five-Test series. So it will be something new for us," Dhoni said.
England lost the Test series 0-1, the ODI series 2-3 and the lone Twenty to Sri Lanka but Dhoni said that it would not prudent to rate England low due to their recent unfavourable results.
"Not really. It is never about what has happened in the past. You always assess the opposition on the basis of their team composition and England are still a fantastic side. It means that it will be a very competitive schedule for us," he opined.
Dhoni also had kind words for his under-fire counterpart Alastair Cook, who is reeling in the aftermath of some very bad results, off-late compounded by his own poor form.
"You just have to see his record, how he performed when we were here last time. A bad patch of form is for every player but you need to back good players. When you score 100s or 200s all critics come on your side. But the real test of character is when you are not doing well but you still have the support of your team-mates, fans and media," said Dhoni.
"Captaincy is a process. Whenever I go out to play, I am not out to prove that I am a good captain. It`s about doing the job you have been given. You also have to earn the respect of the players and not demand it.
"As a captain you need to help each player and it gets you that respect. What is also very important is that when you are not doing well, help maintain the dressing room atmosphere because that is very tough phase and doubts don?t help anyone. At the end, it is about keeping things simple," he added, sharing a leaf or two from his own book.
India`s last tour of England was in 2011 when they were thrashed 4-0 in the Test series, followed up by a 4-0 loss in the ODI series and then lost the lone T20I as well. Then in the home series of 2012-13, India again came up short with a 2-1 loss, England`s first Test series win in the country for 28 years.
It was a time of transition for India, which has given rise to a new and young team that has now already completed tours to South Africa and New Zealand in the last seven months.
"Transition happens with every side. No player plays for hundred years. Some play for 15, some play for 20, but they retire at some point of time. It is something that happens to each side, to West Indies, Australia, and now India.
"It has happened to England in the past and it will happen again for them in the future. You have to go through this process inevitably, but the quicker you go through this and settle down the better for the side. Because, while this phase is on, there is always pressure on the side," said the Indian skipper.
The pressure bit is evident because on two occasions on their last two foreign tours, the team has come close to reversing their record of not winning a Test overseas since 2010-11. In both South Africa and New Zealand, they were in winning positions early on in the first Tests, only to lose the two-Test series 1-0 on both occasions.
While it is still a learning curve for this team, it is also a worrying factor because only three players out of this 18-man squad Dhoni himself, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma have played Test cricket in England.
"Of course it`s better if we have experienced players. But the good point is most of these players have played some amount of cricket in England. They have played the Champions Trophy, or some form of county cricket if not a lot, or have toured here as part of Under-19 or India-A teams or some other form of cricket. All of this helps," said Dhoni.
"At the same time it will be important that those players who have little experience get used to conditions quickly. We have come here 15-20 days before the first Test and the weather has been kind so far. We have good support wherever we go in England and the facilities have been excellent. We have begun our preparations well," he signed off.