Team India is starting its campaign in England from August 4 in Nottingham. Cricketnext spoke to former England captain David Gower on India’s chances in this series. Gower, who played 117 Test matches with over 8000 runs, was one of the most respected voices for nearly three decades with the Sky Sports broadcasting team.
What are your expectations from this series?
One thing I always believe that in any Test series nothing is ever taken for granted. India and England are two of the top Test teams of the world. India has had few weeks break after the WTC final to think (about this series). One thing that strikes me in this English summer will be the presence of crowd. We have seen in last 18 months that players have been in bio-bubbles whether it was in India, Australia or England and there was bubble fatigue. As recently, there were cases of Covid in this new tournament The Hundred in England.
Will you see any difference when India plays in England from how they played at home against the same opponent earlier this year?
Any Test series between India and England is always very very special. And what has changed over the years whenever India has come to England, something which is very obvious is that the fight they show. There were some great performances by some individuals, especially someone like Sunil Gavaskar who used to score all over the world. But there were times when England would try to play home advantage for many players. Nowadays, this Indian team under Virat Kohli is not worried about being in England. The weather is now hot and dry but yes the big difference (with this Indian team, compared to others is) in terms of attitude.
Do you think the present Indian pace attack is best ever in their history?
Yes, you are right that this current line-up of Indian pacer is best where you have got so many options. Look at this attack, they are very very good and will enjoy bowling with the Dukes balls in these conditions.
However, they didn’t do well against New Zealand in Southampton in June…
They must have learnt from the WTC final game where maybe their length was slightly wrong. Sometimes they need to pitch a little fuller because of the glorious weather. But what is more important is that having number of good bowlers options to pick from.
What about the English pace attack?
When you look at the English attack, they still have James Anderson who is outstanding, they still have Stuart Broad who is three-four years younger and you have people like Mark Wood with express pace. Ollie Robinson is not express but he showed against New Zealand that too he can find the right length.
So, there is not much difference in the pace attack of the both sides?
India certainly has the edge in the spin department. When you have got R Ashwin in your side, you have got someone very special in the team. You have got Ravindra Jadeja, fit and firing. The balance of the teams would be interesting and I think India has got the options with spin as well. A lot will depend on the pitches.
Can India think of playing both Ashwin and Jadeja in the playing XI as they did against New Zealand in the WTC final?
I think they can. In England spin comes on its own in the last couple of days depending how the pitches have been prepared which I have no idea about. I will go back in my time (which is) almost 30 years where I preferred two spinners in my team because most of the time we had Ian Botham as an all-rounder. India has an advantage with Ashwin and Jadeja as they can add some serious runs. India has got that option so they can add a bowler if they want to. But all the talks are hypothetical because once you go on the morning of the Test match, a lot of plan goes wasted because the grass has been taken off or something else. You got to be careful.
However, can it be assumed that England will return the favour as far pitches are concerned? Do you think that the host may provide spicier pitches?
No, not excessively. I think there might be some grass (on the) first day, first morning but by and large, in England groundsmen generally provide good pitches. I don’t think that sort of imbalance with the pitches as England’s top order is not great either. If you are going to put three inches long grass against this Indian attack, England top three won’t enjoy this. So there has to be balance I am sure.
Any prediction for the series in terms of the score line?
I hate to predict (laughs). Modern Test cricket does give you results. Well, here are two good sides there and I think 2-2 should be a fair outcome.
Finally, you thoughts on Ravi Shashtri who has been a good friend of yours. How do you look at his role and contribution in this young Indian team?
He is still there! (Laughs again)…Ravi has always been a strong character and survivor. Let’s face it if you get anything wrong you don’t necessarily survive in Indian cricket. I have played with him and spent time in commentary boxes. He knows the game and is a strong character. He will be there to support his team. Look at what the team has done under him which is winning in Australia not once but twice. A lot of good stuff there. I am supposed to catch up with him as I just spoke to him recently.