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India will miss Sehwag's early attack

Occasionally fate serves up a delightful twist to an already irresistible contest. The India versus England series, the Lord’s Test in particular, is one such example, writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2011 00:49 IST

Occasionally fate serves up a delightful twist to an already irresistible contest. The India versus England series, the Lord’s Test in particular, is one such example.

Coincidentally, the game at Lord’s is the 2000th Test match and it launches a series where the number one ranking is on the line. It appears that fate has come down slightly in England’s favour.

The first two venues in this series, Lord's and Trent Bridge, are known to favour swing bowling. England’s ability to swing both the new and old ball is a big reason behind their recent rise up the rankings.

In addition, India are missing their greatest counter-attacking weapon — Virender Sehwag. No other batsman in the world can disrupt bowling plans quicker than Sehwag.


History disproves Sehwag theory
India could dispute that reasoning by saying that last time in England they won the Trent Bridge Test and with it the series without Sehwag.

But Sehwag’s absence could hurt India this time. The opener can gain the upper-hand in a series just by batting normally in the first session. India will now have to wear down the England bowlers rather than use bludgeoning tactics upfront.

In bowling, India’s biggest plus from the Caribbean series was the return to form of Ishant Sharma. The young fast bowler frankly admitted that he’d tried to copy his opening partner Zaheer Khan and this had brought problems. Having rectified that mistake he’s now poised to form a lethal combination with Zaheer, who is the Indian bowler best equipped to utilise any swing on offer.

Zaheer can trouble England captain Andrew Strauss. If India can separate Strauss and Alastair Cook quickly, then the England batting is vulnerable. Cook’s consistently high scoring was crucial in England retaining the Ashes. England is vulnerable against good spin bowling and the best way to expose this flaw is to make early inroads. This frailty also presents India with a selection poser; do they pick two spinners or three seamers?

If they choose three seamers will they then prefer Yuvraj Singh to Suresh Raina? Yuvraj’s recent bowling renaissance in ODIs makes his selection enticing, as Kevin Pietersen has shown that left-arm orthodox spinners are his kryptonite. However, India should pick the best batsman at number six.


Interesting contests
There’ll be many absorbing contests. Harbhajan Singh and England’s two left-handed openers; Jimmy Anderson is the best swing bowler in the game when he’s on song and he’ll test India’s aging middle-order, never mind the less experienced opening combination.

And then there’s Graeme Swann, a fine attacking off-spinner operating against batsmen who are most comfortable playing spin. There’s a lot to look forward to in this series even before the number one ranking is decided.