Thursday, November 15, 2012

India plays down talk of a ‘revenge series’

AHMEDABAD, November 15, 2012

India starts a crucial Test series campaign on Thursday against a team that whipped it 4-0 last summer in England. It suffered a similar drubbing against Australia thereafter, but managed to come out of the rut partially with a home series win against the West Indies and more recently against New Zealand that will keep it in a positive state of mind.

Since climbing to the top of the Test ranking with that emphatic win against India, England was bamboozled by Pakistan's spin magic in the three-Test series fought in the Emirates and lost to South Africa in the recent home summer series.

Trouble off field

England faced off-field problems relating to Kevin Pietersen's unsavoury text messages about his captain and a few others to the South African players, but it has thrashed out this annoying issue with the captain Alastair Cook and Director of coaching, Andy Flower, playing a proactive role and paving the way for Pietersen's return to the team.

The two teams have pursued different preparation methods with the home team undergoing a three-day camp in Mumbai and arriving here two days before to get a feel of the local conditions. England has played three tour games, including a four-day game against Haryana at a venue which is a stone's throw from the main ground at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium here in Motera.

Effectively England has got under its belt around sixty plus hours of match-experience, sufficient enough for any visiting team before entering a Test match, but it faced only 130 odd overs of second string spin bowling.

On the face of it, it appears that the selection committee has deliberately deprived opportunities for the England batsmen to get accustomed to shots that one would normally play against spin bowling and this ruse perhaps has largely contributed to the perceptible hype around the series.

It has been widely predicted that the England batsmen would struggle to find their feet in the series when they are up against highly rated spinners in off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha.

These two bowlers have together accounted for 73 dismissals in the last two home series against the West Indies and New Zealand.

So it's with this reason that India would pin its faith on the same combination with the left-arm spin of Yuvraj Singh as an adjunct to manipulate on the slow and dry pitches to take early control of the four-Test rubber.

Obviously several Indian players have gone on record recently, including Sachin Tendulkar and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, that revenge would not be a motive and that the Indian team's aim would be to compete and play a good Test series.

Ever since Cook arrived in Mumbai a little more than a fortnight ago, Indian fans have been constantly reminded of last year's rout with the seam attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and off-spinner Graeme Swann doing the damage at London's Oval ground.

Still hurts

More than a year has wistfully passed by since that dim summer in England, but the one-sidedness of that series still hurts the disheartened who follow the ebbing fortunes of the Indian team on wickets that largely aided seam bowling with the 2010 batch of Duke balls.

England would be without Steve Finn who has not recovered sufficiently well to be drafted into the playing squad.

Finn's place may be taken by Tim Bresnan which will straightway make it a three-pronged pace attack with Graeme Swann as a definite option on a wicket which Cook said was very dry.

With Ishant Sharma out of the squad with viral fever, India's pace option has been reduced to Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav.

It was confirmed that the Delhi seamer will not be part of the Indian attack, which means Yuvraj Singh looks like the only change from the team that took the field against New Zealand at Bangalore.

The teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ashoke Dinda, Murali Vijay, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma (in squad, but not available for selection).

England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Graham Onions, Samit Patel, Stuart Meaker and Steve Finn (in squad, but not available for selection).
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