NEW DELHI: India ended their tour Down Under on a high. India defeated Australia 2-1 in their own den to clinch the Border-Gavaskar trophy for the second time in a row. Now, India will move to their next assignment – a four-match Test series against England at home.
The opening Test will be played at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram stadium from February 5. Chennai will also host the second Test, which will start on February 13. The last time Chennai hosted a Test match was way back in 2016 when India trounced the Alastair Cook-led England team by an innings and 75 runs.
A total of 60 Tests have been played between India and England in India. India have won 19 times, England emerged winners on 13 occasions, while 28 Tests have resulted in draws.
India and England have faced each other in 9 Test matches in Chennai. India have registered five wins and England three at this venue. The Test match in 1982 ended in a draw.
The last time England won a Test series in India was in 2012-13 when the Cook-led side clinched the series 2-1.
Former England spinner Monty Panesar, who was part of that triumphant English team in 2012-13 and claimed 17 wickets in 3 Tests vs India, spoke to Timesofindia.com about India’s chances vs England this time, key players from both teams, his best memory vs India, which team has the superior bowling attack and much more…
06:45Joe Root is the key wicket India will be aiming for, not Ben Stokes: Monty Panesar
Would you say the series win against Australia by a severely depleted Indian team will go down as one of the all-time greatest series wins?
Yes, I agree with you. It’s probably your greatest away victory. Coach Ravi Shastri should be given credit for this. How did Shastri manage to keep the boys in a positive mind frame when they got out for 36 (in Adelaide Test)? It’s his attitude, his approach to how to keep the team together, that worked well for the team. He’s played a huge role in doing so. There’s a lot of credit that goes to Shastri. I honestly think it starts off with Sourav Ganguly. Because he knows how to bring up the talent. And there’s so much to be said about ex-cricketers being in administration roles. It has made a huge difference. I think the appointment of Ganguly, coach Shastri, who has been part of the team for so long. They really know how to bring talent into the team and make sure that they are up for the challenge.
India are coming off an inspirational win against Australia. Some key players like Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma, Hardik Pandya are all back. Can India pull off a series whitewash against England at home this time?
I don’t think there will be a whitewash, but I think India are favourites to win the series because they’re playing in their own home conditions. England have got a strong seam attack. The batting is going to be their weakest point because you look at the openers who keep getting out to spinners. India are going to exploit that. The young English batsmen are not as adaptable as Joe root is. So, I think India are going to be favourites to win the series.
Your prediction for the series?
India will win the series. But I will be surprised if India beat England 4-0. For me, it will be 2-1 or 2-0.
When it comes to English cricket, a lot of talk revolves around the next Ashes series they are going to play. England coach Chris Silverwood also said that India’s win in Australia gives them a lot of inspiration that they can also go and beat Australia in their own den. Some like Graeme Swann have said the team needs to focus on the India series before thinking about the Ashes….
Well, I think it’s a deficiency that we have in the England team. We know we’re not great players of spin but we are better players when the ball bounces above the hip height. In Australia, it’s all about cut, play the pull well. When they pitch it in short and in between the shoulder and the hip area, you got to pull the ball, you can’t really duck into it. You got to be a good puller and a good cutter. These young players in the team, are better players of the short pitch fast bowling than spin. The likes of Kevin Pietersen, he moved his feet, or he would make room and hit the ball from outside the stumps and hit the ball into different areas. These players don’t bat like that. But if you tell them to bat against fast bowling, they’re much more equipped for it. So that’s why England are preparing themselves for the Ashes. And that’s why they’ve got this rotation policy happening in the India series. They don’t mind if they lose the Test series, as long as the players get the exposure, and they are put under pressure, and they get to know more about themselves for the big series in Australia. Because I don’t think they will have a rotation policy (in Australia for the Ashes). When the first Test match starts in Australia both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will be playing. But in the first Test match in India, I don’t think both Anderson and Broad will be playing.
If you have to list three key players for England and three for India, who will they be and why?
I think the key players for England are going to be Joe Root, Stuart Broad, and Jimmy Anderson. Joe knows how to bat in these conditions and he’s in tremendous form. He will have to emulate what Alistair Cook did in India. Joe needs to bat for long because only then he can set up the game for England against India. Also, under seaming conditions, Broad and Anderson can do wonders. Anderson never bowls at the stumps. He always bowls 4 or 5 feet away from a batsman. He wants you to chase him and then he brings it back in to trap a batsman LBW. If the Indian batsmen can actually conquer that line, Anderson and Broad are both going to struggle.
For India, it is going to be Ajinkya Rahane. His batting, captaincy, and leadership skills have impressed me a lot. Second, Pujara. He’s able to sustain the pressure. I think Ashwin is going to be a key player for India in the series. He can take wickets over the wicket and around the wicket. He’s got different variations and he’s a very astute cricketer. I remember him saying ‘spin bowling is like an app, you got to keep updating every six months’. And, he does that and keeps updating. I love the way he’s become such an unbelievable spinner.
I would also take the name of Japrit Bumrah. With his quick bowling, he can do wonders. We can’t forget Virat Kohli. With the intensity, the emotion that he brings, he takes a game away. He probably wants to take India to the next level. He wants to be known. He wants to be rubbing his shoulders with the likes of Steve Waugh, Viv Richards, and Clive Lloyd. That’s the bracket he wants to be in. When it comes to world captaincy, you say Steve Waugh was one of the greats, Clive Lloyd was a great captain, Nasser Hussain was for England. He didn’t have a great team, but he was an unbelievable captain. If he had a great team, I’m sure he would have had a really good record. And then you’ve got the likes of Virat Kohli. These are great leaders. Michael Vaughan and Mike Brearly are the other great captains on the list. That’s how Virat Kohli wants to be remembered. He wants to be remembered as one of the great captains of the game, the great cricket brains of the game as well as one of the great batsmen.
The three main contenders for the World Test Championships final are India, Australia, and New Zealand. Do you think England has an outside chance of making it to the final? It will be played at Lord’s…
It’s going to be difficult. It has nothing to do with the venue. Chennai is a red soil wicket, where it turns, it bounces. And even if our spinners do well and we have a good day with the bat, then it is a different thing. I always talk about the top six. Ben Stokes hasn’t really played a Test match (in a while. Stokes last played a Test in August 2020 vs Pakistan). India may catch him early in the first couple of Test matches. This is all India need to do in the first two Test matches. If it was a green wicket in May and India were playing two Test matches on a green wicket in May, you would say England will win both Test matches. (This time) I think India would win both the Test matches (in Chennai).
Ben Stokes started off as a fast-bowling allrounder. He has evolved as a premier allrounder in world cricket. His batting has improved by leaps and bounds. Going into the series, will Stokes be the prime wicket India will be aiming for?
Joe Root. Root will be the key wicket India will be aiming for, not Ben Stokes. Stokes can maybe in a session change the game but then he can get out very quickly. Root can combat all day. And it’s about batting all day to set up the total. England need to bat at least 100 to 120 overs to get themselves in the game. If they get bowled out, let’s say in 60 to 70 overs or even less, that’s game over for England. India will capitalise on that. Who will bat, who is able to bat the longest? When we won in 2012, Alastair Cook was able to bat all day and Pietersen scored very quickly. And that will be the ideal scenario where Ben Stokes could score quickly and Joe Root can bat all day. That will be England’s perfect scenario and India’s nightmare.
Who has a superior fast bowling attack – India or England and why?
India has a superior fast bowling attack. Because they are able to move the ball more. Mohammed Siraj was moving the ball more in Australia than the Australian bowlers. I’ll be surprised if Anderson is able to move the ball more than the Indian bowlers. Siraj was getting more movement, so were Bumrah and Natarajan. I think the Indian fast bowling department can move the ball more in the air and off the pitch than the England fast bowlers.
Do you think Rishabh Pant will be the first-choice wicket-keeper now after his exploits with the bat in Australia?
Pant is definitely a number one keeper. He’s following in the footsteps of MS Dhoni. So, he needs to continue in this vein. He will have to continue with that hunger, desire to keep improving. Virat Kohli being supremely fit and the intensity he brings in. That’s the sort of a player who is going to encourage Pant to keep improving and saying (to himself) – ‘I’ve done really well, but my desire is still there to get better’. This Indian team shouldn’t ever be satisfied. After Australia, we are the next team that in world cricket people want to talk about in 10 years time’.
Your best memories of playing against India…
Probably Mumbai (2012 Test), when I got Virat Kohli out in that innings. Got Tendulkar out, got Sehwag out, got Yuvraj out. That was a good day for me.
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