Unpredictability India's strength - Fletcher
Of India's 18-member squad, only MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma have played a Test in England. According to their coach Duncan Fletcher, though, it is this inexperience that might inspire India to play "exciting" cricket in the five-Test series, which begins at Trent Bridge on July 9. Fletcher said unpredictability was one of the strengths of this Indian side, whose defining characteristic is youth.
"Without making excuses it is a very, very inexperienced side: If you look at how many Tests our opening batters have played, how many Tests our No. 3 has played, how many Tests our bowlers have played," Fletcher said the day before the first tour match, a three-day game against Leicestershire. "But it is nice sometimes, because being unpredictable they will play some exciting cricket. There are some very, very exciting cricketers in this group who would go on to be very, very good cricketers for India. They might fire from this series and there will be some very, very good cricket played."
India and England have been on a topsy-turvy ride since 2011, when Andrew Strauss' men won 4-0 to snatch the No.1 Test ranking off India. A hurt MS Dhoni had said the day before leaving the country that he would "never" forget the tour, in the wake of losing at least ten Indian players to various injuries.
The players were hurt, too, and their immediate reaction was that England still had to prove themselves by winning in India. They did that in the winter of 2012-13, when Alastair Cook's side completed a historic 2-1 victory with match-winning performances from Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson and Monty Panesar. Despite being competitive in South Africa and New Zealand, India have not won an away Test for three years.
England have also been on the downward slide in the last six months. A 0-5 Ashes whitewash has been followed by a home defeat to Sri Lanka in a hard fought two-Test series, which came on the back of a loss in the ODIs.
Before departing India, Fletcher had said it was important to attack Cook and Ian Bell, England's two senior batsmen. Today, Fletcher stressed that India were more keen on winning than on reflecting on what had happened in the past. "Reversing trends is not that important. What is important is that you go out trying to win the series. That's what our objective is - to come here and win the series," he said.
Dhoni, sitting next to Fletcher, nodded in agreement. "No not really," he said in response to the question on whether it was a good time to play England. "What you assess is how good a side the opposition is, and I still think England are a fantastic side, which means it will be a tough competition for us. They know the home conditions better than us. It's a long series, five Test matches followed by five ODIs and one T20. Playing a series with five Test matches is something that's entirely new for us. But overall I think it will be really good."
Unlike in 2011, when India only played one tour match before the Test series, this time they are playing two and have arrived nearly three weeks before the first Test. The extra time, according to Dhoni, provided the inexperienced players a chance to get acclimatised to the conditions.
India landed at Heathrow on Sunday and drove straight to Leicester. They have been involved in light training over the past two days in preparation for the 15-a-side match against Leicestershire.
"It's always good to have players who have played in the scenario before but as I've said it's a team that doesn't have too many players in it that have played in England," Dhoni said. "The good thing is a lot of them have played some kind of cricket in England. There are quite a few who were part of the Champions Trophy. There are quite a few who have played in England in other leagues, not just the counties, under-age cricket, maybe the Under-19s. All that really helps but it will be important for those players who have not played too many games to get used to the conditions really quickly. We're here 15 to 20 days before the first Test so that will obviously help."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo