The India-England series, which kicks off on Thursday will not only be a big one for both teams overall, but will also be crucial for certain individuals from both sides for different reasons. Here’s our pick of five men who would be on test during the coming weeks.
Gautam Gambhir: He more than anyone else from the two sides needs to score a hundred. After having a dream run for a couple of seasons, the last two years have been nothing short of horrific for the southpaw, especially in the longer version of the game. His tendency to poke outside the off stump has been exposed innumerable times during this period. And, since this has been his bread and butter shot, Gambhir has instinctively fallen prey to the stroke time and again in spite of being well aware of the fact that it will cause his downfall. England know where to bowl at him. Whether Gambhir knows how to deal with those ‘inviting’ deliveries remains to be seen.
Virender Sehwag: Time is running out for Gambhir’s senior partner for sure. He hasn’t done anything of note in the last year and a half except for that magnificent ODI double ton against a weak West Indian attack on a belter of a pitch. His last away hundred came in 2008, and we are at the end of 2012 now. Like Gambhir, even Sehwag had a torrid time against the New Zealanders at home. The Englishmen have a much more potent attack, and will come hard at him for sure. Sehwag’s affinity to throw it away from getting starts is now beyond exasperating. Does he have anything more to offer to Indian cricket?
Zaheer Khan: Like always, the left-arm pacer will be the spearhead of the Indian attack. There are no two doubts about his ability, but question marks remain over his fitness. Ever since he left the field at Lord’s last year having bowled only a handful of deliveries, he has never been the same again. Injuries and niggles have dogged him throughout the last season. Even in the Ranji game he played for Mumbai against Railways, he limped off the field raising more concerns. Although the spinners are expected to do maximum damage against England, Khan’s bursts will be crucial as well, for he has the ability to get big breakthroughs.
Kevin Pietersen: The India series marks Pietersen’s return to international cricket following an unnecessary off-field battle between him and the other team members. For the sake of English cricket, the whole team must put the past behind and play with one common goal. Things would be made a lot easier in case Pietersen can come up with the goods. He is known to be an excellent player of spin, but was worked over by the Pakistanis in the UAE. Pietersen would be keen to make amends on more than one front.
Ian Bell: Like KP, Bell is also a key figure in the English line up. But, like the dashing Pietersen, even Bell struggled when it came to facing spin against Pakistan. The England middle-order bat is fast developing a reputation of someone who is best suited to home conditions. If Bell wants the theory to change, he needs to deliver against Indian in India.
--By A Cricket Analyst