The Mohali Test will be crucial for England
The face off between the BCCI and the ICC has come to a predictable end with the chiefs of both the governing bodies issuing a joint statement. The telephone lines between India and London were busy, as there was a deadline to be met in the case of Sehwag. The ICC took some time before comprehending the viewpoint of the BCCI. The BCCI was never for going against the apex international body but it wanted the ICC to do something about the anomalies in the way the referees carried out their duties. Finally, the ICC has shown the required understanding and agreed to look into the issues raised by the BCCI President, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya.
The series between England and India will now get underway and all the undue importance given to the Denness episode will thankfully be pushed to the back burner. The Englishmen have been here and have played themselves in, so to speak, on Indian pitches. The results they have had may not be flattering but it would be prudent not to take the visitors lightly.
Nasser Hussain is on a mission in more ways than one and it would be a real test for his team. The Englishmen had done well in the subcontinent the last time they played against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which would really make them fancy their chances. Of course, they are missing the likes of Atherton and Stewart but they still have enough strength in their batting to combat the Indian attack. The fact that there is a lot of inexperience in the Indian medium-pace department and that coupled with the fact that the spinners Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble also are under pressure to perform would give great comfort to the visitors.
Saurav Ganguly's love-hate affair with the Indian selection committee continues. The Indian captain has come out with a strong statement after he was not consulted before being given the team for the first Test at Mohali. The entire bunch of medium-pacers from the squad in South Africa have been sacked and younger bowlers have been drafted in. The inclusion of a third spinner also comes as a surprise because the chances of playing all of them are frail. The third seamer may well be Bangar but Ganguly may rather take up that responsibility. The lack of harmony between the think tank and the selection committee is evident and this may prove to be beneficial for the visitors.
If the track at Mohali behaves as it normally does, then the Englishmen would stand upto the hosts in a manner contrary to the expectations of Indian fans. The visitors are no strangers to seaming surfaces and the relatively inexperienced Indian pace attack would pose no great threat to the England side. Mark Butcher and Marcus Trescothick, the likely England openers, are capable of making big scores. Their middle-order batsmen are also good players of spin bowling.
Hussain, for his part, is a tough nut and quite obviously he knows what to expect in India. He is though without his two main wickettakers, Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick, which leaves him with Craig White as the spearhead. Ashley Giles can be a handful on turning tracks but he is coming back to international cricket after a long break owing to injury.
Given the fact that the Indians are trying to recover from the South African blues, the visitors have a realistic chance of turning the tables in Mohali. If they miss out there, then it will be tough for them to beat the Indians either in Ahmedabad or Bangalore.