New Delhi: England are due to arrive in India on Wednesday for a five-match series against the world's number one side, after being chastened by the first-ever Test defeat to cricket's traditional whipping boys, Bangladesh.
In contrast India, after whitewashing New Zealand, are shaping up nicely as they seek to end a run of three successive series defeats against England.
AFP Sports looks at some of the issues facing both sides before the first Test in Rajkot on 9 November:
1. England in a spin
After their top order was bamboozled by Bangladeshi rookie Mehedi Hasan, England now have to contend with the world's number one spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin. Their top five all averaged less than 25 in the two Tests and none of them looked comfortable against Hasan, who took 19 wickets.
Gary Ballance's place in the playing eleven looks particularly vulnerable after he scored just 23 runs during the series. With Ashwin and a much-improved Ravindra Jadeja being automatic choices, the India's selectors also called up veteran Amit Mishra as part of a three-pronged spin attack.
The 33-year-old leggie took 5-18 at the weekend as India skittled New Zealand for just 79 in the final ODI. Batting great Sunil Gavaskar is among those who have been calling for three spinners against England, saying Mishra is a proven wicket-taker and not just someone who can dry up an end.
2. Off the pace
Ben Stokes impressed with 11 wickets but England's pacemen were otherwise disappointing in Bangladesh, doing little to dispel the suspicion they will struggle without their talisman Jimmy Anderson in India. Anderson took more wickets than any other pace bowler on either side when England won the 2012 series in India, but a shoulder problem has sidelined him this time round -- although he still hopes to play some part in the series.
His long-time partner Stuart Broad should win his 100th Test cap in Rajkot but has a poor record on the subcontinent and was dropped in 2012 after going wicketless in the first two Tests. His replacement Steven Finn was also called up for the second Bangladesh Test but looked largely innocuous.
3. Hosts' opening worries
Despite an impressive 3-0 clean sweep over New Zealand in the Test series, India have some nagging concerns -- particularly the lack of a reliable opening partnership. Despite trying out five different combinations in their last 14 Tests, India have failed to record a century partnership at the top of the order in that time.
The normally swashbuckling Shikhar Dhawan, who missed the last Test with a thumb injury, scored a solitary fifty in his last eight Tests and was expectedly dropped. Murali Vijay booked his slot despite scoring just 45 runs in his last four innings against New Zealand.
4. Bogey team?
It's the best part of a decade since India's last series victory over England, and Mishra is the only member of the line-up from those heady days of 2008 expected to play in Rajkot. Star batsman and captain Virat Kohli was among those who struggled when India toured England in 2014, scoring just 134 runs in five Tests at an average of 13.40. Ashwin meanwhile took just three wickets in two Tests before being dropped. Lack of confidence is not usually an issue with Kohli, but he will want a big score early on to avoid doubts creeping in.
5. Umpires under review
The series will be the first India has agreed to play using the decision review system (DRS), albeit on a trial basis. The Board of Control for Criocket in India (BCCI) says its doubts have been largely addressed by improvements in technology.
However, the Bangladesh vs England series highlighted how TV replays can become a double-edged sword by undermining umpires' confidence. Forty-two decisions were reviewed in the two Tests and Sri Lanka's Kumar Dharmasena had 13 of his on-field decisions overturned by the third umpire. As well as raising questions about the officials' competence, the constant scrutiny sucked some of the drama from the series as so many decisions went upstairs.
First Published On : Nov 2, 2016 19:27 IST