Dravid hopes warm-up games don't lack intensity
Rahul Dravid, the former India captain, hopes the two warm-up games on India's tour to England will not lack intensity, as has been the case on previous tours. India, who are scheduled to play five Tests against England, play the first of their two warm-up games on Thursday, a three-day match in Leicester.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Dravid said, "When I first started playing, county or first-class teams would put out their best XIs against international teams. That has changed a lot because towards the end of my career, you would almost see second XIs playing against you and that would bring down the intensity of the competition. I hope that doesn't happen."
On their tour of England in 2011, when India were whitewashed 0-4, the visitors played just one warm-up match against Somerset before the first Test and a second warm-up game against Northamptonshire was held after the first two Tests. This year's schedule has been structured differently, with two warm-up games leading into the series but none between the five Tests.
Dravid said these matches will be useful as "a lot of India's young players haven't been on a full tour to England before and haven't played a lot of Test cricket for while now. So just to get into the groove of things, for the bowlers to bowl some long spells, get that 20-over workload in a day, for a batsman to spend a couple of sessions, it will be a really useful exercise."
He was also of the view that the experience of having been on previous 'A' tours to England would be "helpful". India A toured England and Scotland in June-July 2010, and played three- and four-day games against Yorkshire and West Indies A and limited-overs matches against West Indies A, Scotland and England Lions. Of the current Indian side, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha and Ajinkya Rahane had played for India A on that tour.
'It's just nice to get used to the conditions," Dravid said. "[For] someone like an Ishant Sharma, who's played a few IPL games but hasn't played a lot other than that, it will be nice for him to have one or two long bowls in these games."
India have taken the unprecedented step of naming an 18-man squad for the tour, which might make it harder for the management to give every player a go before the Tests. Dravid chuckled at the thought of "fitting 18 guys into a very small dressing room at Leicester!" but said the management would look to try "different combinations" in the two games.
"There are two ways they can go, which is bowling three seamers and one spinner in one combination and actually going with two seamers and two spinners in another," Dravid said. "Maybe two games gives them the opportunity to try out both combinations and see which is the good one."
Having not played any competitive cricket since the IPL, the likes of Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay and MS Dhoni will be keen to get some invaluable match practice ahead of the Tests. Dravid expected the Test certainties to take up most of the spots in warm-ups: "You generally know nine of your players, so you generally like to give them as much batting time as possible. You can rotate the bowlers a little bit more, the batsmen like to bat a lot before a series starts."
Having toured England four times and enjoyed a great amount of success there, Dravid said the tour games could "really get you into the tour". "I really enjoyed them, because they are nice small cities and towns where you really get to chill out and relax at the end of the day. I really looked forward to some of these games."
With nearly 20 days in England and the opportunity to play two warm-up games, India should ideally be better prepared for the Tests than their recent overseas tours. Dravid, however, added a note of caution: "They are (warm-up games) important, it doesn't guarantee you success in the Test matches or the other way around if you don't do well in these games."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo