India are improving overseas - Dhoni
MS Dhoni believes he has seen enough on the tours of South Africa and New Zealand to be convinced his side are heading in the right direction.
India have not won an overseas Test since Jamaica 2011, but they did come close to winning one each on their previous two trips. In a way this series will be a bigger test for them just through the sheer duration of it - five Tests - but he also has a struggling opposition and pitches that are not likely to be to the hosts' liking.
Dhoni sounded accordingly optimistic. "There have been a lot of changes in the Indian side in the last one-and-half or close to two years," he said. "If you talk about the last two Test series that we played abroad - in South Africa and New Zealand - the performance of our team was really good.
"Though we lost both the series, we were definitely in a position to win the series or a Test. So I felt there's plenty to learn for the cricketers. If I compare between the first Test we played in South Africa and the last Test we played in New Zealand, there has been considerable improvement. You know, it's a right way of moving ahead."
Dhoni chose to stay focussed on "process" more than "results". "It is important for us to take the team forward and give them the right guidance, so that they get the right kind of exposure to do well outside India," he said. "Of course it will be a challenge for them, but as they play a lot more matches abroad, the equation will get much better also. It's a constant process."
One of India's main problems away from home has been the unreliable quicks, and they have not had great results in the tour games. However, Dhoni was not overly worried about the pressure they will be under and had words of encouragement for Ishant Sharma who struggled during the warm-up fixtures.
"The good thing is that we have got some time to adjust to the conditions here," he said. "They have done the fitness part in the 10-12 days. Now we are going through a phase where we are easing the workload on the fast bowlers. They have been bowling in the right areas, and making the batsmen play which is very crucial in this part. Overall they are looking good.
"Hopefully we don't have too many injuries like it had happened in the last series . I remember we had close to nine or 10 injuries to our top players. And as far as Ishant [Sharma] is concerned, he is bowling well. It's very important to get into a good rhythm. So far he has been bowling well and he is also someone who can get a bit more bounce than some of our other bowlers."
The nature of pitches in England has changed significantly from the time India last toured here. They might not be what England would love, but Dhoni said they had not changed to an extent that they would help the visitors.
"If you come over here, then the first thing the home team would like to do is to ensure that the pitch will not turn at least in the first three or four days," he said. "I don't see any good reason - at most venues - for us to think about two spinners. I think they will look for a hard wicket to start with so that it does not turn and takes the spinners slightly out of play. We are playing five Tests and may be in one venue you may get a pitch where we can play two spinners. So, I don't think we are too confused about the playing XI now."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo