Test Match cricket is finally here! After months of countdown, India finally will take on England in 4 Tests on English soil in a straightforward battle for the No. 1 ranking in Tests.
The setting for the beginning of the battle couldn’t have been any better. Test Cricket reaches the 2000 mark. India and England are playing their 100th Test. Sachin Tendulkar is a century away from a century of centuries while it will be Duncan Fletcher’s 100th Test as a coach and against the team he played an integral part in making World beaters and to top it all the venue – the Mecca of Cricket, the Lord’s Cricket Ground.
MS Dhoni and his men have everything to play for to retain their World No.1 ranking while Strauss and Co. look to continue their impressive run in Tests since 2009. The odds are even. Dhoni is unbeaten in a Test series as captain while England have won seven and drawn one in their eight series. India have only won one Test at Lords but this Indian team comes with a reputation of setting records straight. Dhoni’s men were expected to be steamrolled in South Africa late last year and although they lost the first Test by an innings, they bounced back well to draw the series.
Indians are generally known to be poor starters to a series. All of Dhoni’s 3 Test losses have come in the first match of the series and with Somerset piling over 600 runs in 2 innings in the practice match, the Indians will already be feeling the heat to get a good start to the series. Sachin, Gambhir and Zaheer – all of whom missed the 1-0 series victory in the Caribbean will return to the squad while Virender Sehwag continues to sit out due to an elbow injury. Gambhir, playing his first Test in England, will be expected to shepard the inexperienced Abhinav Mukund. Raina’s heroics against Somerset must have all but fetched him the No.6 slot ahead of Yuvraj Singh but don’t be surprised if Dhoni pulls a trick out of the bag and sends Yuvraj to open with Gambhir. While Dravid returns to the ground where he made his debut fifteen years ago, Sachin will be looking to improve on his high score at this ground which reads a paltry 37.
The management will be spoilt for choices to pick the bowlers though. Ishant, after picking up the Man of the Series in the West Indies, along with Zaheer Khan are assured starters along with the spin option of Harbhajan Singh. Sreesanth, Munaf and Praveen Kumar are the available options to fill the third spinner’s slot. While Sreesanth will be itching to go and bowl in bowler friendly conditions, Praveen Kumar is the favourite to retain the spot after a good showing in the Caribbean.
Abhinav Mukund, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, Mahender Singh Dhoni (Captain & Wicketkeeper), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma.