In the good old days of Test cricket, when England used to pack their bags for long-haul tours of the subcontinent, the second series often proved to be better for them than the first.
Take for example their 1973 tour of Pakistan. Having lost a five-match series against India 1-2 less than a month ago, England wouldn’t have been blamed for preparing for the worst when they landed in Pakistan. They left the country drawing the three-match series 0-0. England again toured both countries in 1984. This time they lost 0-1 to Pakistan but went on to win the series against India 2-1 a few months down the line.
Similar results emerged in 2012, too. England started that year by losing all three Tests to Pakistan in the UAE. But in the subsequent tour of Sri Lanka they drew 1-1. When they finally came to India in the winter, they had improved remarkably to shock the hosts and win the series 2-1.
The reason behind citing these examples is to ascertain whether Bangladesh might have armed England with enough sobering experience after defeating them in the Mirpur Test. England were expected to leave Bangladesh with a 2-0 margin to their name. A 1-1 result, thanks to a 19-wicket haul by debutant spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz, has hurt England’s pride big time.
Once bitten, India will be aware of what England might bring to the table when they start their tour next week. Like in 2012, England will again arrive with two main spinners in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid but whether they can ape the consistent success of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar is the biggest question.
Quality wise, there is no doubt though that R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would be more effective as spinners but at least three venues might provide England with an equal chance to hit back. Both Ali and Rashid, who picked 11 and seven wickets respectively in Bangladesh, come to India better prepared. And this time, England are also bringing adequate spin backup in Gareth Batty and Zafar Ansari.
England’s main concern, however, surrounds their batting, which collapsed in a heap during the Mirpur Test. In less than a session, England had lost all 10 wickets for 64 runs in 135 balls. “When stuff like this happens, especially away from home – when you’re at home, you can get away from it for a couple of days. But we haven’t got that luxury,” England captain Alastair Cook was quoted as saying after the Mirpur loss.
But where the tour of India differs from that of Bangladesh is in its duration. India haven’t played a five-match series at home since 2002, so this might be an opportunity for India to try out their mettle in a proper marquee series that has a week-long break after the third Test.
Used to the grind of the Ashes, this kind of Test series however is just what England would like to have on their hands. Add to that the humiliation in Bangladesh and England might have gotten just the right motivation they need to shock India once again.