A tougher opponent awaits India

India’s batting has faltered on a few occasions in the One-Day series. It was an impediment the team overcame with effective bowling performances against New Zealand, but against England, its frailties could prove costly.

ENGLAND

Since England’s exit in the group stages of the World Cup last year, its limited-overs campaigns have breathed new life, and it is a much tougher unit.   -  AFP

After New Zealand’s dramatic collapse for 79 that ended the One-Day International (ODI) series in India’s favour, its captain Kane Williamson admitted the two-month long tour was tough. The visitor had been outperformed in a number of facets in the Tests and One-Dayers; the biggest one of them was spin. While off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin troubled the team in the Tests, leg-spinner Mishra carried the mantle in the ODIs.

India managed its resources well, resting key players for the ODI series, so they could be fresh for the upcoming assignments. And considering India’s success, the strategies of the team management have proved fruitful.

However, it may not be a guarantee of success in India’s next assignment: a series against England in all formats.

India’s batting has faltered on a few occasions in the One-Day series. It was an impediment the team overcame with effective bowling performances against New Zealand. But, against England, its frailties could prove costly. Since England’s exit in the group stages of the World Cup last year, its limited-overs campaigns have seen a new lease of life, and it is a much tougher unit.

To drive home the transformation, it completed an ODI series win in Bangladesh this month. Since 2015, India, Pakistan and even South Africa have not been able to break Bangladesh’s ODI fortress.

In spinning tracks, England has bowlers in Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali to give it breakthroughs in limited-overs matches. But India will hold the edge in Tests since England’s primary spinners are not Test stalwarts, and also because Ashwin is currently at the top of his game, holding the top spot among bowlers in the ICC Test rankings.

A repeat of England’s success as in its tour of India in 2012-13 seems unlikely. Its leading spinner Graeme Swann, who scripted his team’s success, retired within a year of that tour and his ally Monty Panesar has fallen off the radar with poor performances and personal troubles. India’s Test captain has also changed; Virat Kohli rallies his team to dominate and play fearlessly in a contrast to the erstwhile captain M. S. Dhoni’s insipid captaincy in the last few years of his Test career.

England’s Test challenge will hinge on performances of Moeen Ali, Gareth Batty and Rashid. While Batty is a seasoned spinner with years of polishing in county cricket, Moeen has recently sprung into form, evidenced by a five-wicket haul against Bangladesh in the second Test in Mirpur.

England is still capable of springing surprises. Against the odds, it won the Ashes at home in 2015, a result that catalysed retirements of quite a few senior players from Australia, which looked invincible in the months leading up to the series.

All in all, the England series in all formats will surely be a higher grade of challenge for India.