Rajkot: Their morale high after back-to-backtriumphs over West Indies and New Zealand, World No.1 India would be odds-on favourites when they take on England in what is expected to be a gruelling five-Test series starting here tomorrow.
The series will be the first five-match affair on Indian soil in three decades and the opening clash will also mark the debut of Rajkot as a Test venue.
It promises to be an engrossing contest between the world No.1 ranked India and the team that last beat them at home four years ago.
In 2012, England came back from a game down to turn the tables on India and post a 2-1 win in a four-game rubber.
Superior spin bowling by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, both of whom are no longer part of the squad, was a major factor in that English triumph.
Also some excellent batting by current skipper Alastair Cook and the controversial Kevin Pietersen, who is no longer a part of England’s scheme of things, were the highlights for England.
The current Indian team led by Virat Kohli, who was a member of the team that was vanquished four years ago and later in England (3-1) two years ago in a best-of-five contest, would not have forgotten the hard lessons.
This time around, however, England have come into the series after a first-ever shock defeat in a Test match at the hands of Bangladesh in Dhaka to draw the two-match rubber 1-1.
The tourists have also not played any warm-up game after landing in India a week ago. Add to that, their highest Test wicket-taker James Anderson is not available for at least the opening skirmish as he is yet to return to complete fitness from a shoulder injury.
Both Cook and all-rounder Stuart Broad, who is to play his 100th Test, have talked about England being the clear “underdogs” going into the rubber, especially against an Indian side being led in aggressive style by Kohli.
Kohli would be extremely keen to improve his not-so-impressive record with the bat against the visitors.
The Indians are understandably wary of the England team.
Coach Anil Kumble wants his team to execute plans exactly like they did when they swamped New Zealand 3-0 to begin the home season on a rousing note.
Yesterday, vice captain Ajinkya Rahane talked about the dangers of becoming complacent even against an England side, which has a few new faces.
This would also be the first Test series in India where the Decision Review System (DRS), which the BCCI has consistently opposed, will be used.
The hosts, with little experience of it in Tests barring the one series eight years ago in Sri Lanka, have been busy planning their strategy on how to approach the system. PTI
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