IN THE NEWS
Testing time is here again
Rahul Dravid and his men need to pull up their socks as they get ready to face a formidable England team in the Test series beginning at Lordís on July 19, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
The real test for Indian cricket, and also for English cricket, is just round the corner. Team India, which hit rock bottom with its miserable performance in the World Cup, is slowly trying to regain its winning ways. To some extent, England are also sailing in the same boat.
Indiaís recent victories against Bangladesh in Tests and one-dayers started the process of recovery. What really delighted die-hard cricket followers at home was the come-from-behind triumph against South Africa in the three-match one-day series.
England, after a mediocre show in the World Cup, thrashed a depleted West Indies side 3-0 in the Test series, even though they lost the subsequent ODI rubber. They are keenly looking forward to taking on India. The India-England showdown promises to be closely contested, going by the results of the last two Test series, which both ended in a 1-1 draw.
India will face England in three Tests, followed by seven ODIs. The first Test begins on July 19 at Lordís, where India have so far won only one Test ó in 1986 under Kapil Devís captaincy. The series would test the mettle of Rahul Dravid and his team to the hilt. England at home are always a formidable team, particularly in the longer version of the game. Led by fit-again Michael Vaughan, Englandís most successful Test captain of all time, the teamís confidence is on a high, having handed out a drubbing to the West Indies.
The series is important for India for more than one reason. For one, this is probably the last series in which the "Big Three" of contemporary Indian cricket ó Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly ó will be playing together in England. The same is the case with VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. Itís expected that these five seniors would try to do their collective best to secure a Test series win in England. The Indians would hope that the younger players come of age on this tough tour.
India are touring England at a time when the weather is relatively warm and dry. The warm-up games prior to the first Test have given the team ample opportunity to try out various combinations. The dry conditions should suit the Indian spinners, led by the veteran Kumble.
However, the same would also hold true in case of Englandís Monty Panesar, who is a much-improved bowler compared to what he was on Englandís tour of India last year. In the series against the West Indies, he bagged a rich haul of 23 wickets. In fact, Vaughan is pinning much of his hopes of doing well against India on Panesar, the first Sikh cricketer to play for England. Notwithstanding the ease with which Indian batsmen usually play spinners, he canít be taken lightly by Tendulkar and the others.
Englandís batting line-up looks impressive, with Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood having developed into voracious run-makers. Then there is Vaughan himself, gradually redicovering his touch, besides wicketkeeper Matt Prior, a very useful middle-order batsman who hit a ton on his Test debut against the Windies.
England would sorely miss their star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who is likely to be unavailable for the entire Test series. Flintoff underwent an ankle surgery recently, and has been ruled out of action for some time. He might return for the one-day series.
"Fast-bowling all-rounders are like gold and England have a problem replacing him. His absence makes things far more equal this time," Dravid was quoted as saying during a media interaction.
Flintoff has picked up 22 wickets in nine Tests against India and, as captain, took three for 14 as England won the final Test in Mumbai to level the series last year after the visitors had lost the second at Mohali (the first game at Nagpur was drawn). "When England came to India last time, he was brilliant," Dravid had said.
But to compensate for Flintoffís absence as a bowler, England have the pace and bounce of Stephen Harmison and the swing of Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom.
India might have the batsmen to deliver the goods, but much would depend on the bowlers. In their game against Sussex, the bowlers were not able to deliver the knockout punch after having put the county on the mat. They have to do much better than that to give England a tough time in the Test series.
to the core
IN THE NEWS
Viswanathan Anand, the worldís number one chess player, shares a special relationship with Spain. He lives for the better part of the year in Collado Mediano, a place near Madrid; he figures among the 40 most important people in that country; above all, he is a recipient of the James de Oro, one of Spainís highest civilian awards. No wonder, he has been outstanding over the years in their premier international chess tournament, the Magistral Ciudad de Le`F3n.
Playing on his happy hunting ground, Anand outclassed Bulgarian Grandmaster Veselin Topalov 3-1 in the final to win the Le`F3n title for the record seventh time. Anand had beaten the same rival 2.5-1.5 last year. After his first triumph in 1996, Anand was the champion from 1999 to 2001 and then from 2005 to 2007.
The Cuidad tournament, which has
completed 20 editions, has been held in various formats, including a
period from 1998 to 2002, when it was held as an "Advanced
Chess" event with players using computers during games. ó