India's tour of England is a crucial one where winning shouldn't be the sole aim; the team also needs to ensure young players develop.
Before India sets foot on English soil there are a few positives; they have the rare opportunity to play two first-class games to acclimatise before the first Test, they’re touring when the weather is generally warmer and drier and they open their campaign at Lord’s, a ground where since 1980, all the teams barring Sri Lanka have beaten England.
However, there are a few things India should be wary of. Monty Panesar has gone from being a left-armer with potential, to an outstanding spinner. The resurgent left-arm swing bowler Ryan Sidebottom gives England variety in attack.
Of the batsmen, Kevin Pietersen is now a consistent player rather than a dashing young batsman with a rapier blade. In 2006, there was a danger he might take an opponent apart, now it’s only a matter of how many times it will happen.
Ian Bell and Alastair Cook have developed into consistent run-makers. In addition, Matt Prior’s successful transition to Tests means England now actually have a wicket-keeper who can bat; one with a decent technique.
If the injured Flintoff recover in time and Stephen Harmison’s resurgence isn’t short-lived, then England has an attack to match any in the world. To cap all those attributes, the side is well led by Michael Vaughan.
That won’t concern England much at the moment but beating India will. The West Indies are a sad, shambles of a team and demolishing them only brought minor satisfaction compared with the elation that would follow a win over India.
On paper, Dravid’s side is strong in batting but suspect in bowling, particularly the pace department, which is very inexperienced. India’s main concern will be what happens if the conditions suit swing and seam bowling?
Despite their experience, the senior batsmen (apart from Dravid) have shown a dislike for pitches with a tinge of green and this mind-set will need to change if they are to overcome the England attack. If it doesn’t and the inexperienced Indian fast bowlers also don’t adapt, then the tourists will be in for a torrid time.
With the West Indies showing no signs of turning their fortunes around, world cricket badly needs a revitalised Indian side. This tour is the ideal starting point, as many of the senior batsmen won’t be around much longer and they need to set an example for the younger players and show them the right path for the future.