The India-England series kicks off at a venue worthy to host the 2000th Test and the 100th between the two countries. Lord's has always been special and will continue to hold its elite status.
There is lot of fanfare before the first Test, but I am sure the cricketers will not allow emotion to rub on to them. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and MS Dhoni have seen it all and their experience will keep them stay focused.
As of now, India start favourites as they have been the only side, apart from Australia, to have beaten England at home in recent years. It is more or less the same England side since 2007.
There has been talk of steep bounce, English weather and what not. But people need to remember that India have won in Nottingham under cloudy conditions, and they triumphed in Perth and Durban facing up to steep bounce. This is a different team. They're mean, mentally strong and hungry for success. If they manage to start well, India will dominate the four-Test series.
India will miss Virender Sehwag, but there are people who can take care of such situations. Gautam Gambhir, Sachin, Rahul, Laxman will be the key figures. There is talk about Sachin's 100th hundred, but the champion knows that if he has reached 99, the landmark will follow. His focus will be on the series and towards maintaining India's domination.
Zaheer Khan bowled superbly in 2007 and has matured to test Strauss and his boys in their backyard. He is coming out of an injury break and his fitness will be a key factor. Ishant Sharma bowled very well in the West Indies but it will be his ability to swing the ball which will be crucial in England.
In all probability, India will go in with Zaheer, Ishant, Munaf Patel and Harbhajan, but Sreesanth cannot be ignored in English conditions, as he has the ability to move the ball. There are a lot of side matches and it will be interesting to see how he shapes up.
England must be up for it but also playing on their mind would be that they are up against the No. 1 team in the world. A lot will depend on whether they can take early control.