England unlikely to succumb easily at home

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Nottingham: India will be playing a full, five-Test cricket series in England after 55 years. They were stripped of this honour after being whitewashed 0-5 in 1959.

Following this, one of England’s star batsmen of that era, Colin Cowdrey, contemptuously expressed the view that international cricket should be divided into a big league and a little league, with India relegated to the latter.

But the Indians were consigned to three Tests not merely because they were inadequate, but also because they attracted poor gate receipts in that period. Statistically, India fared worse three years ago in the 0-4 clean sweep against them.

Yet, ironically, their reward is a restoration of a best-of-five contest. Why? Because India-based TV companies and advertisers disburse heftier bucks than their counterparts in any other country when India tour England, not on any cricketing merit.

In 2011, England were rising to a crescendo; and in comprehensively eclipsing India, they legitimately attained the No.1 ranking in Test cricket or the mantle of world champions in the eyes of the purist.

Now, they are visibly over the hill, having been humiliated 0-5 in Australia in winter and conceded a first ever series win at home to Sri Lanka last month. They are, akin to the Indians, rebuilding from ruins.

At the same time, England on their own soil are unlikely to succumb easily. Indeed, the first Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, starting Wednesday could present the most favourable conditions for their faster bowlers, and consequently the stiffest challenge to the tourists. Pitches for the remaining Tests could be slower or may even turn.

The curator at Trent Bridge is likely to leave a generous measure of grass on the pitch and a residue of moisture. Therefore, the first morning could well transpire to be a seam and swing bowler’s paradise.

Subsequently, the lateral movement may subside, but there could remain a healthy bounce as a result of a hard pitch.

Confronting the quartet will be a batting line-up with no exposure whatsoever to Tests in England, other than captain Mahendra Dhoni, who can hardly be described as a reliable wielder of the willow in Tests outside the Indian subcontinent. Yet, the young Turks are not unpromising.