November 13, 2008

England in India 2008-09

Time for England and India to step up

Nishi Narayanan
A relaxed Kevin Pietersen shares a laugh in practice, Mumbai, November 8, 2008
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While Australian dominance over the past 13 years has been based, like West Indies before them, on a happy confluence of a number of great cricketers in one generation, Australia's strength as a cricketing nation over a longer period of time has been systemic, which should ensure that its recession is a relatively shallow one, writes Mike Atherton in the Times.

Top-class batsmen and fielders, unlike great bowlers, can be mass-produced and the strength of Australian school, club and state cricket will ensure such a production line continues. Excellence in batting and fielding has become, as Ian Chappell once said, institutionalised.

But he goes on to say that while Australia are scrapping rather than dominating, India and England are the likeliest candidates to commit themselves to producing the kind of sustained excellence that West Indies and Australia managed over a long period.

India have a potential champion in Ishant Sharma, the first home pace bowler to win a man-of-the-series award in India since Kapil Dev in 1983, along with a decently stocked fast bowling cupboard and good spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra. England, too, are not short on firepower. It was more than just wicket-taking ability, though, that brought West Indies and Australia their periods of dominance. Each had something extra in their leaders and group of senior players: hunger, passion, desire and single-minded drive to succeed whatever the cost. Neither India nor England have yet shown enough of that, which makes the forthcoming series such a tantalising prospect.

In an interview with the Times of India, Gautam Gambhir is optimistic about India's chances of beating England.

In the Guardian, Duncan Fletcher lists out two challenges that Kevin Pietersen will face in India.

He has to be careful about the way he motivates the guys, he has to find a balance between overdoing it and not doing it enough to keep them going. They don't want to have to say "Get off my back, captain". He also needs to get used to the different field settings required in India. Depending on the line and length you bowl, fields need to be squarer than they are in England as the ball comes on to the bat so slowly That means it's harder to hit down the ground in India and shots you think are going through, say, mid-on end up going through midwicket instead.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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