I’ve never been to India but, from afar, it’s always struck me as a country in which ordered chaos rather than thorough organisation plays a prominent part. However, you have to hand it to the cricket authorities who have gone out of their way to ensure their team has the best possible chance of exacting suitable revenge on England for a 4-0 test humiliation last summer.
Meticulously prepared, the pitches facing Alastair Cook and his team in their three practice matches ahead of the test series have been most un-Indian in nature. Green and pace-friendly, groundsmen couldn’t have done any more to lull England’s batsmen and bowlers into a false sense of security. Only a quarter of the balls faced so far on tour have been spin and not a single top-class slow bowler has been allowed to give the England batsmen a taste of the storm to come when the series gets underway in Ahmedabad later this week.
To be fair, England’s likely top seven have all taken advantage of conditions to get among the runs. All have scored at least one fifty and Cook, Johnathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen have hit hundreds. This is a crucial series for KP if he is endear himself to team-mates and supporters again and he is 7/2 with Ladbrokes to be England’s top run scorer in the First Test, the same odds at Cook and Trott. Nick Compton looks to have won the battle with Joe Root to be Cook’s opening partner and is a general 7/1 to be England’s top run-maker in the series as a whole. However, I just can’t see how undercooked England can possibly win a first series in India for 27 years. They are a general 4/1 to do so but will begin with fitness doubts over two of their main strike bowlers, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, while leading spinner Graeme Swann has just rejoined the party having spent time at home helping his daughter to recover from illness. Clearly, his mind won’t have been on cricket and he’s bound to be a little ring-rusty. India are a tough enough side to beat on home soil even without distractions and they can’t be realistically opposed to win the series at the 4/7 with BetVictor, Boylesports and Stan James, though the general feeling persists that the golden age of some of their best players may be coming to an end. I’d expect England to avoid a whitewash but can’t see the tourists bowling out MS Dhoni‘s team twice anytime soon, let alone winning a match. A 2-0 correct score could be worth a bet, therefore, at 11/2 with Betfred, Boylesports and BetVictor.