India in England 2014 June 25, 2014

Unpredictability India's strength - Fletcher

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Ishant Sharma is the only bowler in the Indian squad to have played a Test in England © Getty Images

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.

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
Duncan Fletcher

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fkhawaja on June 29, 2014, 9:41 GMT

    England are not at their best nor are the Indians . Both teams are low in confidence and need a lot of improvement. in english conditions specially after having played srilanka, I think the English team would be in a better position to do well. england are likely to prepare fast bouncy wickets which can cause problems for the indians.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on June 29, 2014, 6:28 GMT

    As long as Cook is captain, Moores is coach and England continue selecting players out of form, everything will be fine for this young Indian side. Good luck to them, they will need some with no DRS available.

  • Camberwellcarrot1979 on June 29, 2014, 0:50 GMT

    I have the utmost respect for Dhoni: fine batsmen, good keeper and an excellent man. I think he has the minerals to galvanise this side. I am an ardent England fan but we are there for the taking. England have some young 'uns making their way and have talent but are very brittle. I think if the Indians can get his new ball attack right then India can win the series. I am not sure if India have great seamers and I have seen better Indian spin bowlers than on this tour but nevertheless, this England team can falter if put under pressure. If India start well, then England and Cook could be done.

  • cric1965 on June 28, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    From 1932 India played 49 test matches in England and won only 4. That is (WASP) 6%. From 1984 Sri Lanka played 12 matches and won 3. That is 25%. India won only 3 series out of 16. Winning percentage ( WASP) 18%. India has 6% chance of winning a single test match in England soil.Can they change WASP this time ?

  • vkumar_086 on June 28, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    @ electric_loco_WAP4....im still searching Afridi's 300 runs innings against India in last T20 WC...

  • Cricsnake on June 28, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    In my opinion India has learnt a lot of lessons from the 2011 tour & it will be tough time for England. But I hope England will comeback strongly & it will be another thrilling series. I predict that it could be 2-2 draw or 3-2 win for the best side. SL did very well against England in all T20, ODI & tests and as Lankans we would love to see other teams from South Asia do well in the West. India has done extremely well in the past specially when Dada (Ganguly) lead them. India's overseas record in the recent past is not much impressive but their players done very well in SA/ NZ with both bat & ball. They need lot of character to convert such close draws in to victories. This is the time to showcase their real face. Good Luck !

  • Cricsnake on June 28, 2014, 6:35 GMT

    I think India will do far better than 2011. England has become much weaker & the summer pitches will support batsmen to score heavily. India have a solid batting line-up with talented, young and moderately experienced batsmen from top to tail. Dhawan, Vijay, Kohli, Pujara, Rehene, Gambhir, Rohit all can do well. Hope Saha would be wicket-keeper this time. Dhoni can play as pure batsman & that would strengthen the middle order. Ashwin & Jadeja both can bat well at the end. I have higher hopes on Pujara & Kohli. I'm pretty sure that after the series everyone talks about him. Kohli will score another couple of hundreds as he always do. He has 10 innings to do so. I expect some 500+ innings would be common this time.

  • Cricsnake on June 28, 2014, 6:21 GMT

    A lovely picture at top, Pankaj, Varun, Bhuvi Ishant & Shami right? I hope they all do well this time if given chance. I wish all the best for team India consisting bunch of youngsters. This Time the bowling spearhead would be Ishant Sharma as he is the most experienced Pacer in this squad. He has the height and could bounce as Broad, Plunkett & Finn. As a seam bowler he must bowl with better lengths across the body of the batsmen. Bhuvi can do well with swing as we saw Kulasekara tamed Cook with gentle pace. Cook seems pretty comfortable at 85-88 mph but vulnerable to 75 mph swingers. Thus Bhuvi/ Pandey can be tested against him. India bowlers must take reasonable care on Cook, Bell, Robson, Root, Moeen & Ballance. Sometimes Butler might replace Prior & he also very dangerous.

  • jimbond on June 28, 2014, 3:44 GMT

    Ishant Sharma does okay in bouncy pitches in Australia/South Africa, but am not able to see the logic for his inclusion on a trip to UK. Kumar and Shami are certainties in the 11, but on swinging tracks, it would be good to use Binny as well (even though swing at his pace is hardly likely to trouble the Englishmen- but then guys like Prabhakar and Bangar used to do okay as bowlers in England). Worth taking a risk with Pankaj Singh or Aaron, as Ishant Sharma is the tried, tested and failed type and anyone would be better than him.

  • vkumar_086 on June 27, 2014, 22:22 GMT

    despite a subcontinent country SL is yet to win SINGLE TEST in INDIA...the last series win was the first ever series win of SL outside subcontinent....SL is yet to win a major title in ODI/T20 outside subcontinent....India (2007 T20 WC, 1983 WC, 2013 CT) and Pak (1992 WC, 2009 T20 WC) are the ONLY teams won ICC titles outside subcontinent....SL heavily depends upon KS, MJ to win matches....this sums up the story of major teams of subcontinent