A captain’s legacy and his team’s ability are majorly judged by performances inflicted overseas. Indian cricket has always been devoid of the overseas win until Sourav Ganguly and his side showed us that winning in alien conditions wasn’t a daunting task. At the turn of 21st century, the Indian team was under safe hands as they witnessed a dream run over a period of next five years.
It included the men in blue reaching the finals in 2003 World Cup and a remarkable series win over Australia at home. But what stood out was the overseas Test victories in Australia and England. The conditions were tough to handle and demanded character and the team didn’t back out on both the occasions.
Once again India is on the cusp of making history as a determined squad led by Virat Kohli is scheduled to play a 5-match Test series in England beginning this August. Many consider this as India’s best chance to win a Test series abroad as several reasons go in favour of the visitors to term them as firm favourites against the weakened England side.
We look at some of the reasons why India can surprise the hosts and continue to rule their supremacy even in overseas conditions.
#1 All-dimensional pace attack that assures reliability
This will be the very first time when India would fancy their chances against the English merely on the basis of their quality pace attack. The attack possesses variety with each bowler having his own speciality that sets him apart from the rest. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has the crucial ability to swing the ball and in what better place than England, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami are good proponents of reverse swing bowling while Ishant Sharma has enough experience of bowling in English conditions and Jasprit Bumrah can be cunningly deceptive with his awkward action.
The team will gain confidence from their last overseas outing against South Africa where, in each Test match, the bowlers managed to pick up 20 wickets. The hosts will be in a state of a dilemma to offer a green top to the visitors as even their batsmen will face a tough time against the potent Indian bowling attack which is capable of exploiting the friendly conditions and go past any batting order. If Indians can put up runs in excess of 350 on the board then this would spice up things as this bowling unit would definitely give the hosts a run for their money.
#2 England lack experience in their batting order
England has been on the receiving end in the past few months. Ashes defeat to Australia and then levelling the series against Pakistan after a scar in the Lord’s Test, saw them with a lot of things to ponder upon. One of the major concerns for them has been the under-firing batting line up that has shown glimpses but has failed to deliver as a unit. They highly depend on the experienced likes of Alastair Cook and Joe Root, which is not much promising as the home team would love to resolve this issue before the all-important series.
Even their new skipper has witnessed a dip in form ever since he has taken over the reigns from Cook. Root has failed to convert his 50s and 70s into major hundreds, leaving his side with a lot to fill in. England has also faced issues with their opening slot as the search for a reliable opening partner alongside Cook appears to be eternal. If England is to prevent an upset then the likes of Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, and Ben Stokes, will be needed to step up to the task and put up some strong performances with the bat.
#3 Over dependency on Anderson and Broad
The two Englishmen have been the backbone of this English attack for quite some time now. Both complement each other very well especially in home conditions which suits their style of bowling. Anderson, highest wicket-taker for England in Test cricket, has over 300 wickets to his name in England and is arguably the world’s best when it comes to bowling with the Dukes ball in those assisting home conditions.
While Broad has been the perfect foil for Anderson from the other end, there is still a lack of an ideal third seamer for England. The bowling attack depends heavily upon the two old horses despite many chop and changes that have happened for that vacant spot for the third seamer. In the past, the likes of Mark Wood and Chris Woakes have been considered for the job but none has shown enough promise to be named as a permanent third choice seamer. With both Anderson and Broad already being on the other side of 30, it could pose a threat for Root and Co. to ensure that they both last long enough for the entire 5-match series to give the hosts a real chance in the Test series
#4 County experience of Indian players will help their cause
Test series in England is always viewed with much greater importance as it is one of the toughest assignments that any Indian cricketer has to go through in his career. In order to pursue well in those conditions, preparations are always in full swing at least 2-3 months prior to the tour. Likewise, few players fancy playing county cricket in England in order to get accustomed to the conditions as it is a real test of technique which comes along with an uncertain weather.
Even in this Indian squad, Cheteshwar Pujara for Yorkshire and Ishant Sharma for Sussex enjoyed some quality time in their county stint ahead of this crucial tour. Sharma, who had a good couple of months under Jason Gillespie at Sussex, seems to be a much-improved bowler especially with his fuller lengths, which is a key in swinging conditions. While Pujara has been a regular overseas for the Yorkshire, the visitors would hope that his experience comes in handy for the tour with the likes of Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli playing the supporting cast.
#5 Skipper Kohli determined to turn the tables
It was a horrendous outing with the bat for India’s current skipper Virat Kohli when he last toured England in whites. It was an ordinary tour for a player of his standards when he averaged meagre 13.4 in the ten innings. It would be an eager Kohli who would look to turn things around this time when he takes the field with an added responsibility of being the leader of the side.
Kohli’s vulnerability of fishing outside the off stump was exposed when he faced tough times against the English spearhead James Anderson in 2014. Anderson had Virat as his bunny when he got him out five times in the entire series. Now after four years, if there’s any stone left unturned that puts a question mark on Kohli being an all-time great, it is his performance against the moving ball, which he’ll be desperate to make certain changes in the records set by him. If India is to do well, Kohli has to perform to the best of his abilities to lead his team’s surge in the forthcoming series.