Former India captain Rahul Dravid expects the battle between Ben Stokes and R Ashwin to play an important role in the five-match Test series in August-September in England. Dravid, who was the skipper when India won in 2007, also noted that the series will be quite keenly contested, giving the visitors the edge.
"I really do think India have a very good chance this time," Dravid was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
"There's no question about their (England's) bowling. Whatever bowling attack England put on the park, especially their seam-bowling attack, is going to be fantastic. They have a lot of players to pick and choose from and that's going to be terrific.
"But if you look at their top six or top seven, you really think of one great batsman, a world-class batsman who is Joe Root. Obviously, Ben Stokes is another one, who is a good allrounder, but for some reason Ashwin seems to do well against him. And that should be an interesting contest. I know he's done well against him (Stokes) in India, but it'll still be an interesting subplot to the series.
"But I just think India will be well-prepared, have the confidence from Australia, there's lot of belief in the squad. A couple of players have been to England a few times, there's a lot of experience in the batting order this time around, so this is probably our best chance, maybe say 3-2 to India."
The current head of the National Cricket Academy, Dravid said the extended stay in England after the World Test Championship Final due to quarantine rules is likely to work in India’s favour. India leave for UK on 2 June for the WTC Final against New Zealand in Southampton from 18 June. After which, they are expected to play intra-squad games in the build-up to the first Test in Nottingham on 4 August.
"I think India will play really well in England this time," Dravid said. "It's a great opportunity we've got. After the WTC final, they're going to be in England for a whole month before the Test series starts. I don't think any team has had that kind of time to prepare for a Test series as India will have this time, so that surely should be a great advantage.
"In England, if there's one thing you've always got to respect, it's the conditions. It's slightly different from say an Australia or India. To some extent you sort of get the feeling [as batsmen] that you're never set. Even if you're set and you get a good start, batting on 30, 40, 50, things can change very quickly, the weather can change, the ball can swing even after it's 40-50 overs old.
"A lot of times in India or even in Australia, the Kookaburra can become soft, it's a lot easier to bat after 40-50 overs. That's not necessarily the case with the Dukes ball. So, it is a case of really being able to concentrate right through the innings and realising that even if you're set, you've got to get a partnership going. Things can change very quickly, so the one piece of advice is when you're set, value your wicket, play one ball at a time and look to take the game deep. If we put runs on the board, we'll be competitive."
Dravid also added that playing Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin together might add a different dimension to the side in England.
"India has had success with that kind of line-up and especially with the way Ashwin and Jadeja have been batting at the moment, it gives them the best all-round balance. Once Hardik Pandya couldn't bowl (following back trouble), India didn't have anyone for that seam-bowling allrounder's slot. If it's a good summer and if it gets dry and pitches turn in England as well, India have the option of playing two really good spinners.
"If India wins a couple of good tosses, India will have two really good spinners. It can turn in UK. They'll be wary of starting with [pitches] too damp and too green because of India's pace-bowling attack. So, they'll have to prepare good wickets, and good wickets in England, from my experience of playing there, the sun comes out and if you don't water the wicket for five days, days four and five, it can turn."
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