Battle of nerves: A preview of India’s 13-Test home series

In South Africa India have only won two Tests out of 17 attempts across six tours.

By Atish Home Chowdhury

After India’s thumping performance at the Caribbean Islands, cricket has once again reached its ultimate destination, India. BCCI’s recent announcement of India’s upcoming home series has made it certain that Team India will have a tight cricket schedule in the coming months against tough opponents like New Zealand, England, Australia and ever improving Bangladesh.

India’s forthcoming series against New Zealand will be more or less a battle of Kiwi’s bowling versus India’s batting. With the likes of Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul in the team, India will have an edge over the Kiwi team. But tackling quality spin from the likes of Trent Boult, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi could pose a few problems before the hosts. The duo is in a sublime form this year. The spin duo of Santner and Sodhi grabbed 20 wickets together at the ICC World T20 2016 helping New Zealand reach the semis without a single loss. They will try to recreate similar magic against India too.

Kohli’s boys are scheduled to play a total of 13 Tests in this 2016-17 home season. They have started off with the three-Test series against New Zealand. It will be followed by the five Tests against England, a one-off game against Bangladesh, their first ever Test on Indian soil and four against Australia.

Apart from winning, India will try to reach number one position at ICC Test team ranking. Unlike West Indies series, the crowd support will be present with the Indian cricket team this time. Staying in a positive frame of mind and ample practice sessions are the need of the hour and Indian team is exactly doing that – enjoying quality time with their family members – before delving into tight cricket schedule starting this month.

What is at Stake for Team India against New Zealand?

This time, New Zealand have come to India with a formidable pace and spin attack. Though injuries have ruled Tim Southee and Mark Craig out of the series, but still against the likes of Boult, Neil Wagner, Santner and Sodhi, the Indian batting has to be on its toes.

Likewise, with batsmen like Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham BJ Watling — who are regarded for their prowess against spin —  New Zealand can hope to surprise India.

India’s bowling will largely depend on its trusted speedsters like Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma. Their priority will be dismissing the New Zealand’s top order early. Ashwin’s off-break will be crucial if India wishes to carry its winning momentum. He has a knack of providing breakthroughs to the team. Captain Kohli has an immense expectation from him at the upcoming home series against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.

Kiwi legend Scott Styris has recently opined that Ravichandran Ashwin’s spinning deliveries will have a lot to do with India’s spinning tracks. Ashwin can bowl doosra, off-spin, top spin and medium pace in a single over. If he gets required support from the likes of Ravinder Jadeja or Amit Mishra from the other end, then the 30-year-old could be extremely lethal for the opponent.

India vs England: Battle between the equals

Following New Zealand series, India will be at loggerheads against England for a five-Test match series. England have produced fantastic cricket across formats in the last few months and will continue to repeat their good performance in India too.

They have a plethora of emerging cricketers and strong bench strength to substitute main players if an issue of injury or bad performance arises. Stuart Broad and James Anderson will once again spearhead the English bowling attack. It is expected, the spin duo of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali will handle the team’s spin armory.

While in batting department — Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow — are all capable enough to do well on the spin-friendly tracks of India. They will definitely try to adopt with the conditions in the two-Test series against Bangladesh, which the English team is scheduled to play before coming to India.

India vs Bangladesh: Not a cakewalk anymore

Following Bangladesh’s shocking exit from the ICC World T20, earlier this year – when they failed to score 1 run in last 3 balls – the rivalry between India and Bangladesh has grown manifold. Obviously, when Bangladesh visit India for the one-off Test at Hyderabad, the visitors will go all out to run India close.

India and Bangladesh have played eight Tests until now with India winning six of them and rest two were drawn. It is expected, the will leave no stone unturned to make the historic occasion of playing their maiden in India a memorable one.

India vs Australia: A series for Spinners?

Australia will tour India in February-March 2017 for four-Test match series. They are trying to improve their spin department ahead of India tour. Ashton Agar, Michell Swepson, Adam Zampa and Fawad Ahmed will be on the mind of selectors while picking up Australian squad for India tour.

Interestingly, for India tour, team Australia is heavily focusing on its spin department despite knowing how well Indian batsmen are adept at scoring heavily against the spin. Only the time will tell how much the spinners will succeed at this series.

Meanwhile, keeping the recent track record of Aussie batsmen against spinners in the subcontinent in mind, this pitches in this series is expected to be heavily in favour of the tweakers.

However, irrespective of the pitches, conditions, and results this 2016-17 season has mouthwatering prospects for any Indian cricket fan.

(Atish Home Chowdhury is a freelance sports writer. He can be contacted via Facebook here)