Warming up for big Test
Since the end of the Test against Sri Lanka in December 2009, the Indian Test team has had a buzz around it wherever it has travelled. They went into 2010 with the mantle of the No 1 Test side in the world and have since been the team to beat. Sanjjeev Karan Samyal reports.cricket Updated: Jul 15, 2011 00:57 IST
Since the end of the Test against Sri Lanka in December 2009, the Indian Test team has had a buzz around it wherever it has travelled. They went into 2010 with the mantle of the No 1 Test side in the world and have since been the team to beat.
They have been seriously tested but, to their credit, MS Dhoni's men have passed the severest of them to be worthy heirs to the throne.
Again, the eyes of the cricketing world would be on the charismatic cricketers from the subcontinent as they gear up to face the challenge of an upbeat England side, which has gained a formidable reputation at home.
No 1 spot at stake
India will have the No 1 position on the line during the eagerly awaited four-Test series. The home team needs to win by a two-game margin to snatch the title, and, the odds of it being an Indian summer are 50-50.
The key will be to quickly acclimatise to the conditions. The challenge is they have only one tour game to do it. Hence, a greater significance of the three-day tour opener against Somerset at Taunton starting on Friday.
There is not much to choose between the two sides, leaving no margin for error. Any weakness will be fully exploited. The warm-up game will be an opportunity to iron out the chinks in the armour, and, from the visitor's point of view, the focus would be on the players returning from injuries and ailments.
Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, S Sreesanth and Yuvraj Singh missed the West Indies series because of ankle niggle, shoulder, tennis elbow and chest infection respectively. The game will be a test of their match fitness.
Gauti, Zak key
Skipper Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher would be sweating most over the status of Gambhir and Zaheer. The two are the most important cogs in the wheel. For Gambhir, whose injury created a huge furore during the Indian Premier League, finding his rhythm will be a huge boost to India's chances as the team will be relying heavily on him for a strong start in the absence of his regular partner, Virender Sehwag.
Zaheer has been the undoubted leader of the attack, and, apart from wickets, the bowling group looks up to him for inspiration.
The issue about Sreesanth is regaining his confidence. Even though he did well in the last Test series against South Africa, he will be low on self-belief after a poor World Cup and an inconsistent Indian Premier League.
He is a proven Test performer but his chances of taking the third seamer's place will hinge on how he turns up at Taunton.
Dhoni and Fletcher, however, would have taken heart from how these suspects shaped up in the nets on Thursday. Zaheer and Sreesanth bowled a long spell and Gambhir batted solidly.