Talking points ahead of India v England

Blog Opinion

England are in India for a much-anticipated four-Test series, and we're excited about it. Here are five things we've been wondering about, ahead of the first game in Ahmedabad on 15 November.

England are in India for a much-anticipated four-Test series, and we're excited about it. Here are five things we've been wondering about, ahead of the first game in Ahmedabad on 15 November.

<b>1) Opening issues</b>

The top of the batting order is proving tricky for both sides lately. England have to replace the classy Andrew Strauss, who retired at the end of the South Africa tour to his country, while India's long-standing duo are not in the best nick.

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have been defiant in the build-up to this series, saying that they are still the best opening combination India have to offer, despite having an average of around 35 together in the past 12 months.

England, meanwhile, have to pick between Joe Root and Nick Compton to open alongside Alastair Cook, though Jonathan Trott could be given that spot even though he has stated repeatedly that he doesn't want it. As it stands, after three warm-up games, Compton will probably get the nod.

So, both teams will be eager to make sure their top pairings get off to solid starts and are able to build foundations for the innings in the four Tests. One is a new partnership, and the other has been together for 80-odd innings, but the pressure will be high on both.

<b>2) All eyes on KP</b>

As much as we would like to pretend this isn't a distraction, Kevin Pietersen's return to the Test side will be watched with eagle eyes from all around the world. The soap opera surrounding his career this year has been voyeuristically absorbing at the best of times and mind-numbing at the worst.

He scored a century in the final tour match against Haryana, who can hardly hold a candle to India's senior side, but he got his eye in and batted at better than a run a ball for his 110 before retiring. An in-form KP is a deadly KP.

The pressure is on him to perform, like he did the last time they played in India, and he is considered England's best player of spin. He is also one of the senior men in the middle order, so he will need to make sure he keeps his head when required, and not just do his usual 'see ball, hit ball' routine.

<b>3) Spin twins</b>

Speaking of spin, India have two rather proficient proponents of the art in their ranks. Ravi Ashwin is the more talked about of the two, but Pragyan Ojha is just as dangerous, as he proved against the West Indies and New Zealand earlier this year.

Ojha has taken at leas one wicket in every innings he's bowled in since November 2010, including thee five-fers. He's very effective on his home wickets. Ashwin, meanwhile, has played only eight Tests, but has taken 49 wickets. In the series against the Kiwis in August, he took three five-fers in four innings.

England are not deficient in the spin department, having premier spinner Graeme Swann in their ranks alongside veteran Monty Panesar. Swann didn't have a great series against the Proteas and had to deal with a persistent elbow injury, so he will be hoping to bag some wickets on pitches that are made to assist him.

All this being said, we're going to put some money on India's spinners getting the better of most of England's batsmen, while India's hitters will have the rub of the green against Monty and Swann.

<b>4) How will the vets cope?</b>

This series has also seen a lot of focus shifted to veteran batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar. Yuvraj has been in the spotlight all year because of his battle against a rare form of lung cancer, which he won, and is now ready to make a Test return.

How well he will do is yet to be seen, as he's not fully fit yet, and admits to finding breathing difficult after a long innings or a decent stretch in the field. His batting has not yet returned to its former glory, but in the India A game he made 59.

He is probably more important to India in terms of his bowling at the moment, to be honest. In that same India A game, he removed five England batsmen in one innings, including Pietersen, and in the limited overs games before this tour his left-arm spin was highly effective.

As for the Little Master, the whole of India is holding their breath in anticipation of his retirement, upon which we assume there will be a day of mourning. He is 39 now, and not as quick with the reflexes as he used to be. But he scored a century for Mumbai recently, so England's bowlers won't dare underestimate him.

<b>5) The DRS dilemma</b>

India's governing body, the BCCI, have not softened their stance on using the DEcision REview System, saying it's not accurate enough. Thus, there will be no way to review dismissals in this series, something the England players will find irksome.

It's become par for the course for bowlers to consult their skipper and wicketkeeper when an appeal is turned down, and likewise batsmen have become used to being able to make a T with their arms to ask for a check when give out.

But now, they will just have to suck it up and walk away, just like they did back in the day when the human eye of the umpire was all they could rely on. How much impact this will have on the outcome of the series, especially with spinners in operation, will be interesting to note.

What are you looking forward to about the India v England Test Series. Will India be able to avenge the 4-0 drubbing they received in England last year, or will the visitors defy expectations and win the series.

<b>Lindsay du Plessis</b>