After contrasting recent Test cricket exploits, India and England clash in a four match test series starting in Chennai on Friday.
India have returned home after an epic test series victory in Australia where they successfully came from behind after losing the opening day/night test in Adelaide and having the indignity of being skittled for 36 runs.
In that amazing turnaround they were shorn of many high-profile senior members from the initial touring party both through injury and paternal responsibilities but up stepped the likes of Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill with the bat.
Bowlers like Mohammed Siraj, Natarajan, Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur were all blooded with success when absences of Bumrah, Shami and Ravi Ashwin made the nation’s attack look weak on paper.
Ajinkya Rahane skippered the side excellently with individual batting performance distinction in the absence of Virat Kohli after arguably initiating the Adelaide debacle with the run out of the forementioned Kohli.
The test series in Australia will go down as one of the best of all time particularly as India showed unbelievable resilience when everything was against them in the cauldron of Australia where usually no one is spared.
The depth of talent India has in a abundance is often viewed in IPL glimpses but this achievement was in the hardest traditional format where belligerence and thou shall not pass attitude solidified with immense concentration was never better displayed by test veteran Cheteshwar Puraja who stood firm and gave the likes of Pant Gill and Rahane the rock foundation to feed from.
There will no doubt be a blockbuster film made especially given the added sub plots of sledging, crowd racism against a bio-bubble backdrop.
England’s recent Asian aperitif was a lot less dramatic.
In a two match test series in Sri Lanka where both tests were played in the coastal picturesque Fort of Galle. England were victorious in fairly convincingly fashion despite showing frailties in their top order and spin bowling departments which might be greater exploited by an Indian team as opposed to a Sri Lankan side who is clearly going through a barren patch of fielding high quality test cricketers.
Joe Root scored over 400 runs in the series with a highlight 228 in the first innings of the first test, showing that he is by far England’s best player of spin bowling within the touring party.
Jimmy Anderson, who split the series regarding appearances with fellow seam partner and stalwart Stuart Broad showed he still has the intelligence and guile to making an impact for country even in supposedly alien seamer conditions by taking 6 for 40 from 29 overs in the first innings of the second test match when all the other bowlers were tolling wicketless expensively.
This amazing display by the 38 year old Lancastrian who has now 606 test wickets to his name which incidentally is highly unlikely to be reached by any non-spin bowler set the game up perfectly for the England spinners to claim victory in the second innings.
This up and coming series between India and England will be fascinating as expectations from the Indian public will be heightened by the Australian victory .
India welcome back captain and premier batsman Virat Kohli plus Rohit Sharma will start this series as opposed to joining halfway through.
The bowling is almost back to full strength as Bumrah , Ravi Ashwin and Ishant all return meaning that possibly just Jadeja and Shami would be the only two players that might have been included in selection thoughts had they been fit. Kuldeep and Washington Sundar supply the other spin options as India look likely to play three spinners.
England will welcome back Archer who is likely to open the bowling with Anderson. Stokes and Moeen Ali also give the side all-rounder balance with Bess and Leach spearheading the spin department.
India will start strong series favourite especially in favourable home conditions, but England need to bat well as a unit, they cannot rely on the skipper Root to always bail the side out with big contributions although he is clearly in formidable from. Only a few tired run outs foiled him from having a current test match career average above 50.
England will be hoping that average of 49.39 surpasses the half century once this series is over if they are to be competitive against India.
It will be interesting to see if England batting returnees like opener Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali can all hit the ground running after minimal time at the crease recently.
Conditions, age and bio-bubbles will mean England will rotate Anderson and Board while Jos Buttler returns home after the first test with Ben Foakes replacing him in the Second Test. Jonny Bairstow will then return to possibly contest Foakes for the gloves.
The way test cricket is played these days drawn matches are less likely. England need to start the series well and remain competitive although Moeen has 180 test wickets the spin department looks a little light, long gone are the Swanny Super Over days in Chennai.
Prediction would be India to win the series 3 -1 and maybe England might improve as the series develops with players returning getting more accustomed to the Indian conditions.
Finally, as a footnote it is great to see LIVE test match cricket back on free-to-air Channel Four although Sky Sports coverage over the years has been impressive it is good to see a broader audience getting a chance to watch the coverage especially in these trying lockdown periods.