The Test series against England will mark the beginning of a hectic several months for the India team - physically demanding, mentally taxing, and made more nerve-jangling because India will be playing at home, where we are expected to win every time.
For the fan, this is the start of a
veritable feast of high quality cricket. Four Tests and two Twenty20 games against England, three ODIs and two T20 games against Pakistan, five ODIs against England, who will return after their Christmas break, followed by four Tests against Australia.
It is impossible not to get caught in the excitement - three strong opponents who are never known to take a backward step, and inevitably raise their game against India.
For MS Dhoni and his men, the England series will be the first step towards erasing the memories of last season. Even today, happily retired as I am, it still fills me with anguish when I recall the tours of England and Australia. We went into both tours believing we could compete on an equal footing.
Focus on process
Unfortunately, we didn't play well enough in either country, and were at the receiving end of 0-4 losses. This, therefore, is a wonderful opportunity, but I can't stress enough on the importance of not getting carried away. There is a place for emotion in international sport, but you cannot allow it to cloud your judgment. Yes, those marketing the series will label it the 'grudge' or the 'revenge' series and fans will lap it up, but knowing MS and Duncan Fletcher, as well as the wise head of Sachin Tendulkar, I can state with authority that the team will focus on process and let results take care of themselves.
I am delighted that Yuvraj Singh is back in the Test set-up. No praise can be too high for the manner in which he has bounced back, and is too good a player not to make it count in Test cricket as well.
I can't help but reflect on England's last Test tour of India in 2008. It was brilliant of Kevin Pietersen and his team to return to India less than a month after the horrible attacks in Mumbai, which cut short the one-day series.
Once England returned, the focus was back on cricket, though it was impossible not to be gripped by the events that devastated the nation. It was against this backdrop that we pulled off a brilliant win in Chennai, with Virender Sehwag leading the way and Sachin and Yuvi applying the finishing touches.
We had to get 387 - nearly 100 more than the previous highest chase in India - and to get there in the manner we did was outstanding.
Even today, I get goose bumps as I think of that match. It was a victory that was phenomenal; what made it special was that in times of severe strife, it put a smile on the faces of our countrymen. Nothing can ever beat that feeling.
360 Corporate Relations
The writer is a former India batsman
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.