India v England: Talking points as Cook fronts new era in sub-continent
England are aiming for a first Test series win in India since 1984 with a new captain and Kevin Pietersen back in the fold
Cook’s new partner
The retirement of Andrew Strauss leaves a vacant opener’s spot in England’s batting line-up. Despite uncapped duo Joe Root and Nick Compton both vying to succeed the former captain, some have suggested the promotion of Jonathan Trott from number three would be the obvious answer. Trott’s ice-cool temperament throughout his 34-Test career, especially during last winter’s tour to Sri Lanka, makes him an ideal candidate to move up to partner Cook. The South African is one of the few batsmen who can claim to have come anywhere near to mastering the spin-friendly conditions of Asia – based on the evidence of his near match-saving innings of 112 in Galle in March. But Trott has admitted a reluctance to leave his favoured number three slot, where he has batted 48 times for his country. Compton, at 29, is a player who has experienced the highs and low at county level. The Somerset opener, like Trott, is someone who has been recognised by England late in his career thanks to a marvellous summer that saw him score 1494 runs at an average 99.25. However, Compton has been prone to suffer from crippling self-doubt in the past – being the grandson of the legendary Denis Compton has put a unique pressure on the former Middlesex man through his career. But as the exciting right-handed batsmen approaches 30, it is clear to see that he is turning a corner and is ready to partner Cook in the first Test at Ahmedabad on 15 November.
Can England handle India’s spin?
Last winter’s tours to face Pakistan in the UAE and then Sri Lanka posed familiar problems for England in the name of spin. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman left England’s pre-series hopes of finally banishing their spin demons for good in tatters. There is no doubt the return of Kevin Pietersen will bolster England’s batting unit against India’s spin attack, which includes the mystery of Ravichandran Ashwin. However, England’s success on tour will depend almost entirely on how they collectively play Ashwin and the left-arm spin of Pragyan Ojha. England’s bowling quartet of James Anderson, Steven Finn, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann have shown repeatedly its ability to collect 20 wickets on any surface. So it will be the turn of the batsmen once again to try and show the necessary aptitude on sub-continent pitches to carry England home.
Cook fronts new era
The promotion of heir-apparent Cook to Test captain marks the start of a new era for England. Cook has long been identified as a future skipper by the ECB since making his debut in India six years ago. The Essex batsmen scored 60 and 104 against the dynamic spin-duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh that day and will hope by leading from the front this time could put England on course for a memorable victory. It is clear that the make-up of the side will not change too much but it will be intriguing to see whether one or two fresh ideas from the new skipper will boost England’s chances.
Tendulkar’s waning powers will be scrutinised
The 39-year-old batting legend has already declared he will judge when to retire on a series by series basis. This year the “Little Master” became the first batsmen to score a hundred international centuries, so it is difficult to say when he will finally decide to call time on a glittering career. But having been bowled three times in his last Test series against New Zealand, murmurs are growing louder about whether Tendulkar’s reactions are diminishing. If Tendulkar does intend to finally close the door on career that started in 1989 as a 16-year-old, then that will only add to the drama of an India-England series for cricket fans across the world.
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