Hawk Eye analyses the key players to watch out for this weekend, who would be key to India’s chances of a repeat series-winning performance at her majesty’s land.
This MG Road needs to run long: Mukund and Gambhir are likely to be seen together more often, than anticipated earlier, now that the Nawab of Najafgarh’s role in the series remains uncertain. It’s not for nothing that all the years of being labeled as ‘poor travellers’ coincided heavily with Sunny Gavaskar’s retirement. Subsequently, the glory days returned after Veeru blasted his way onto the scene. Without a capable pair of openers to negate the early demons, it’s impossible to win a tough away series.
Gauti returns to the cricket field a couple of months after allegations of hiding injury and aggravating it. Mukund will return to a Test match arena and find life at England is a lot tougher than it was at the scenic Caribbean islands couple of weeks ago. He would be aware that it also presents him with a massive opportunity to make his stay with the squad permanent.
Two southpaws opening makes it easier for the opposition seamers and this MG road will have a tough job even hanging for any opening session, together. That reminds me, when was the last time India opened in a Test match with two lefthanders? I can’t recall. Mukund and Gauti can take inspiration from Hayden and Langer though!!
Fight fire with fire: We also know our batting lineup, the kingly levels of experience aside, are capable of giving us heartaches just when we settle down for a long enjoyable day of Test cricket. Even versus work-in-progress West Indies outfit, two bat-first tough wickets meant we lost our top order for next to nothing scores.
The Poms have seen that and pace-friendly wickets will be on offer. Although the swing would be far less visible now than it is in May-June of England, this makes is all the more important for Sreesanth and Ishant to hit the seam early and keep doing it over the next month.
If they manage to find their rhythm (read: bowl 80% upwards of their capability) and more importantly stay fit, England will have a tough time staying alive in the series. To me, this would be the most decisive factor towards India’s winning the series.
Form vs Potential: On form and basis of his recent match-turning acts in the Caribbean, there should be no debate on this. Gary Kirsten’s confession that he felt Suresh Raina had won us the World Cup (courtesy that fantastic innings vs Australia in the quarterfinals) and the way he played fast bowling lately is evidence that for Raina, time has come to take the big leap.
On the other end of the leap stands Yuvraj Singh – currently the world’s best ODI player (based on his MOT at the World Cup) and one who is determined to fight his Test match spot back. He knows the English well enough, (had two 85-plus scores last time they were in India), brings in star power, is a tough guy to bet against and his mere presence will rile the likes of a Pietersen and a Broad.
MSD is likely to field the XI vs Somerset who he wants to see at Lords. However, since it’s a warm-up game, captains can mutually decide to rotate players in the middle. For our sake, we hope Raina and Yuvi get a chance to slog it out and deliver a stronger statement for the Pommies.
Watch out for the performances of these six players in the practice match over the weekend.