India have arrived with arguably their best equipped squad in recent times and we could witness a classic contest in the second half of the cricketing summer.The first test is at Edgbaston on Wednesday 1st August
One expects an Indian Test squad to feature classy batsmen and skilful spinners, but fast bowling was never India’s strength. A concerted programme of youth coaching and academy development has started to come to fruition and Sachin Tendulkar believes that the touring Test squad have “the most complete fast-bowling attack India have had in years”.
They have all bases covered. A genuine swing bowler in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a tall, hit the deck bowler in Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah is skiddy and Umesh Yadav a genuine quick. A well balanced rounded attack that should thrive in whatever conditions the five Test venues will throw up and with more than capable back up bowlers around the squad.
The IPL has played its part too each year the auction has seen more homegrown Indian fast bowlers go for more and more money and seen more Indian seamers featuring in the list of the fastest deliveries bowled in the tournament. In 2013, only one Indian bowler – Umesh Yadav – featured in the list of the 100 fastest deliveries in the tournament. This year six featured – Mohammed Siraj, Shivan Mavi, Avesh Khan, Yadav, Bumrah and Siddarth Kaul.
Fitness and athleticism and strength and conditioning are now (and India were a bit late to the party) integral to the squad, and captain Kohli is the embodiment of this. Skill, rather than fitness, was India’s way in the past but as we saw when they toured here in 2012 and to a certain extent in 2014. Fielding was not their strong point and their seam bowlers were inconsistent.
Four years later and they are the number one Test team in the World and with good reason. India are now a significant challenge for any opposition whether home or away although it has to be reminded that much of India’s dominance in the format is in home conditions.
This tour provides them with, perhaps, their greatest challenge. You need sound technique to bat in English conditions one of the reasons a number of their squad wanted to come and have stints in county cricket at the start of this season.
India have only won Test series in England three times in their history – most recently in 2007 – but this time feels different. This is the most well balanced, well drilled, fittest squad that has toured here. They have the perfect balance between youth and experience, and with England’s Test team far from settled, we could be in for a close fought series.
England are odds on to win the series, this feels incorrect given the talent in the teams, the hot weather leading to dry pitches and suiting India’s spinners with whom England have really struggled in the first part of the tour, particularly the leg spinner Kuldeep Yadav. England at odds on is price for the first part of the summer, green pitches and exposing India in unfamiliar conditions. In this summer, with parched squares and brown outfields India have conditions as good as they can be for an overseas tour outside the sub-continent.
For the first test prices are England Evens India 9/4 and the draw 3/1 with Skybet India should be backed