CHENNAI: The Indian team will not have much time to soak in the euphoria around their stupendous show in Australia as their next assignment — a four-Test series against England at home — is just round the corner.
England arrived in Chennai on Wednesday for the first two Tests of the series after registering a 2-0 win over Sri Lanka. More importantly, England will take heart from the fact that they were the last international side to have won a Test series in India — a 2-1 result back in 2012-13.
Monty Panesar, who took 17 wickets in that series at an average of 26.82, believes that the opening two Tests in Chennai will set the tone for the series. “If they manage to win a game in Chennai — they will get a lot of confidence for the rest of the series. I expect England to put in a good fight against a strong Indian side,” Panesar told TOI.
Monty, who featured in 50 Tests, 26 ODIs and a lone T20 for England, feels the English spin duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach shouldn’t put undue pressure on themselves while bowling to the vaunted Indian batting line-up. “In India, bowlers need to have an in-and-out field. You should have fielders at close-in positions as well as in the deep. You have to keep mixing things up and cut down the scoring opportunities for the Indian batsmen which will make them take risks. That’s where England bowlers have a chance,” the 38-year-old mentioned.
The R Ashwin factor will be crucial in the series, according to Monty. “Ashwin had a great tour of Australia and will come into the series with tons of confidence. How England play Ashwin will decide the outcome of the series. Ashwin has become smarter with the way he has bowled in recent times and is in prime form,” Monty said.
Monty feels the absence of Ravindra Jadeja could prove to be a weak link in the Indian ranks. “Jadeja will be missed. The second spinner will be crucial for India as Ashwin will need support from the other end to put England under pressure. They have named Axar Patel in the squad but I do believe that Jadeja adds a different dimension to the Indian team,” he said.
The opening Tests will mark an important milestone for Joe Root. The English skipper will be playing his 100th game in the opening Test at Chepauk from February 5. “If England are to have a chance of winning this series, Root will have to bat well. He needs to bat for long periods of time just like Alastair Cook did during the 2012-13 series. He has been brilliant in Sri Lanka and I do hope Root continues batting in the same way against India,” he said.