Laxman confident despite limited preparation time
VVS Laxman is unconcerned about India's limited preparation time in England before the first Test and has backed the team to continue their much-improved overseas performance of the past 10 years. The visitors have struggled in their only warm-up match against Somerset with the bowling far from impressive and the batsmen struggling, but Laxman insists international players know how to adjust.
Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan - all certain starters at Lord's - are playing their first first-class match in almost seven months. Zaheer ended wicketless in the first innings, Gambhir fell for 21 and Tendulkar went for 26. Laxman, meanwhile, is sitting out the match having played three back-to-back Tests against West Indies but his team-mates were given the runaround with Somerset piling up 425 for 3 on a flat pitch.
Rain also cut into the playing time which meant India were left with little more than one session and a day to take what they can from the game before heading to London.
On their previous two tours, however, in West Indies and South Africa, India didn't have a single practice match before the Test series. In South Africa they came a cropper in the opening Test, being hammered by an innings and 25 runs at Centurion, but in West Indies they won by 63 runs at Sabina Park and that was enough to take the series 1-0.
"Because of the hectic nature of international cricket even playing one warm-up is a luxury these days," Laxman said. "When we went to West Indies we didn't have a single match before the Tests. We are quite confident and we'll have good net sessions at Lord's.
"In international cricket with the kind of schedules everyone has you have to be ready for any sort of challenge. Saying that, we have an experienced batting line-up who have played in England before so I'm sure that will be helpful for us come Thursday."
The 1-0 series win in the Caribbean continued India's much-improved record away from home. They came back to draw 1-1 in South Africa and have also held their own in Australia. On the 2007 tour of England, they won 1-0 and five years previously shared the series, which Laxman believes played an important part in transforming their fortunes outside of India. There was more than a hint of confidence when he wouldn't single out this tour as harder than others.
"Not necessarily but it's certainly a very challenging tour," he said. "Any overseas tour is always a challenge and we are all very proud of how we have changed our record abroad. When I started we weren't very good but we've improved a lot. Our mindset has changed.
"We got confidence from the 2002 series in England and before that in West Indies where we won at Trinidad, then at Headingley. Those series, and against Australia in 2003, changed our mindset and we started believing in ourselves. It's given us a lot of pride the way we have performed overseas, both collectively and individually.
"Every country offers different challenges. If you look at the wickets in West Indies they were quite tough to bat and when you visit South Africa, New Zealand or Australia they can be tough. They are conditions that are quite alien to you which offer a challenge."
Laxman's record against England is one blot on his fantastic international record. He averages 34.35 against them without a hundred against his career figure of 47.36. He has, however, had more success against England playing away than on home soil which is something of a surprise. Laxman, though, doesn't get too hung up on those figures but is looking forward to a chance of boosting his record against an England attack he calls "formidable".
"I don't have a hundred against them but feel I've played some important knocks but not converted them," he said. "I've always enjoyed facing the England bowling; it's always formidable so I'm looking to maintaining my consistency of recent years and playing some important knocks.
"They have a very balanced attack with real match-winners," he said. "But I don't want to compare and say whether they are the best. It's going to be a highly challenging series, but we believe that if we play to our potential we can beat anyone."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo