Much has been made to date of team India's chances in the upcoming test series hinging on the personal ambitions of the ageing superstars. This is one theory I do not subscribe to.
It cannot be denied that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman will want to sign off on the last tour of England on the highest note possible. They will also want to be remembered as being entertaining cricketers and match winners.
Personal goals aside Team India's most weapon will be the confidence they have gained through winning test matches on overseas tours. Let's not forget before Sourav Ganguly and John Wright Indian teams seldom won overseas test matches, let alone series. Barring the odd hiccup along the way India has consistently won at least one test match in every series at it as played, to the extent that a series was won in the West Indies and a first-ever test match win on South African soil was achieved.
Success breeds further success in the team's successful performances over the past few years will have given them the confidence that was a visibly absent only a decade ago. This momentum will not guarantee a series win in England, however, it will go some way to ensuring that the two teams start on an even keel when they step on to the hallowed turf at Lords.
Michael Vaughan's team of 2007 is not nearly as cohesive or well drilled as the Ashes conquering side of 2005. Wins over a lacklustre and feeble West Indies could not possibly compensate for the absence of Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones. The decline of England's fortunes began with the injury to Jones. This also appears to have been the signal for Steve Harmison to goal off the boil. Had Harmison been in the team he was unlikely to pose a major threat to the Indian batting lineup, such is the erratic nature of his bowling in this day and age.
Having said that with the introduction of Alistair Cook, return of Michael Vaughan and continued growth of Kevin Pietersen the English batting lineup is much stronger than was at 2005. Add to this the fact that Andrew Strauss may finally be hitting his straps after the last tour game against Indians and you quickly realise the enormity of the task awaiting the Indian attack. We can also not discount the influence of Monty Panesar (a man of whom we are great fans) over the course of this four test series.
If England are to be successful they will look to Panesar to make the big breakthroughs at crucial times. This is a lot of pressure to put on and so young. Taking this into account, and barring the problems in dismissing the tale in the tour matches, I think the Indian attack is more balanced and does not rely on one individual to single-handedly win the match. The big disclaimer that I must add to this proclamation is my predictions will only come true if Sreesanth and RP Singh are able to provide quality support to the main cast of Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan.
This series is going to be a challenge as great as any for Team India. However, if they manage to make the right moves at the right times they should have all the firepower they need to be successful.
I sincerely hope my sleepless nights will be well worth the trouble.
Postscript: With the chance that Matthew Hoggard is in serious doubt for the first Test, does my prediction hold even more weight now? You tell me.
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