If one looks at the statistics, one would be forgiven for thinking that England may just have the upper hand going into the first of the five-match Test series against India. For example, its been three years since India lost a Test series at home and that last defeat was against England. India were regarded as favourites to win the series in 2012 but England gave their hosts a taste of their own medicine, a heavy spin dose.
It is only when one takes a little more time to look into the more recent statistics that one would realise that, on the contrary, England have a lot to worry about coming into this series. The biggest issue that will be causing them to lose their sleep would be the very weapon that they used against India last time around.
England come after a 1-1 series draw against Bangladesh, where they were dismantled by the opposition’s spin department, most prominently, the 18-year-old Mehedi Hasan Miraz. All due respect has to be reserved for our neighbours but, under the current circumstances, any team that found themselves wanting against Bangladesh’s spin department will be flummoxed by the Indian counterpart.
For starters, there is Ravindra Jadeja. He may have been overshadowed, like most of his team mates, by Ravichandran Ashwin’s efforts against New Zealand, but no one can forget that the left-arm spinner was the man who turned it around for India in the first innings of the Kanpur Test. Ashwin had put an end to the 124 run partnership between Tom Latham and Kane Williamson and it was important to keep the pressure on the Kiwis.
In came Jadeja and trapped Ross Taylor in front of the wicket and sent him packing for no runs. He went on to take four more wickets in the innings. That alongwith Ashwin’s four and Umesh Yadav’s one was enough to cause New Zealand to take the field after making just 236 runs. They were, at one stage, cruising at 159/1. It also helps that Rajkot, the venue for the first Test between India and England, is where Jadeja learnt his craft.
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A spinner with such credentials is enough to worry any opposition. But, as stated before, Jadeja was overshadowed by Ashwin in the rest of the series. Superlatives were the only way one could describe Ashwin’s performance. He became the second Indian player to take two ten wicket hauls in a Test series. He became the second fastest to reach 200 Test wickets.
He is not just a man with a ‘lets take the pitch and see how it goes’ attitude. In one of the press conferences during the series, he talked about he had looked at Kane Williamson, arguably New Zealand’s best batsman. “I come into a series with a plan, especially taking off from where Kane Williamson got out in Bangalore when they came here last time,” Ashwin said. “He lunged forward and got out at slips. So he just lunges outside the off stump, so that’s one of the things I thought I would repeat in this series.”
England’s failings against spin was apparent in Bangladesh. In both Tests, all their wickets fell to spin, with Mehdi Hassan and Shakib Al-Hassan being the main tormentors. England have been playing down any talk of them having a chance of getting a favourable result from the series, with skipper Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad making it clear that they are massive underdogs in it. It will be silly to consider any English side a walkover in a Test series but, considering the recent form of the India’s spin department, coupled with the obvious threat that Virat Kohli and co. pose with the bat, and one might just even start thinking of putting together the words ‘white’ and ‘wash’.