Dry Start to a Crucial Test Series.
India and England start their 3-Test series today in Nagpur. India who are two points behind England in the official ICC rankings, will move up to the second position if they defeat England. Apart from that the interest in the series has dwindled.
Expectations from this contest have fallen pretty sharply. The grand theme, the battle for No. 2, is barely audible. Even the Sourav Ganguly thing seems to have died down for the moment. Numbed followers must spend time on such mundane things as working out what XI India will field, and whether England will field an XI at all.
England are facing a mini crisis with a number of their players leaving before the tour even began. They are missing Ashley Giles, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick. Their fast bowling strength is impressive, but with the pitch expected to assist spinners, that may not have a significant impact.
Everything you need to know about the state of both the pitch and the condition of the touring party lies in Duncan Fletcher's remark that England have a "very good chance" of playing two spinners.
And their two spinners look awfully unmatched against their Indian counterparts. Piyush Chawla may make his debut along with Kumble and Harbhajan.
Presuming they don't return home this evening, those two should be Ian Blackwell, whom Indian viewers will remember more for a 68-ball 82 against them in the Champions Trophy of 2002, and Shaun Udal, 18 days shy of his 37th birthday. Udal's 690 first-class wickets have come at 32.56 apiece; and Blackwell's 185 at 43.39. They have between them three Test victims. They are up against a pair with over 700, and the surface is expected to assist them.
All in all, England seem to be a massive underdog. May be they are. But Indians will do well to remember that this England team (OK, may be not exactly this one) showed remarkable resilience by coming from behind and defeating Australia less than a year ago. Any complacence on the part of Indians will be misplaced.