Mumbai: Last time England came here in 2012 they returned home with a 2-1 series victory in the four-match Test series despite losing the first Test at Ahmedabad. India haven’t lost a series at home in the last four years and incidentally England were the only team to win a series in India since 2005.
India are currently No. 1 in the Test rankings and go as firm favourites in the series against a side that came here after a humiliating defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in Dhaka. England captain Alastair Cook conceded that they would go as underdogs in the series but added that his guys have stood up in big series.
"It’s a big challenge. Any time you play the No. 1 or the No. 2 ranked team in their backyard, who are very comfortable in their conditions; it’s a huge task for us. It’s a huge challenge to these guys who have not played much in the subcontinent as a group," he said.
"We have played really good cricket in big series for the last two years. Last year we went to South Africa and won against World No. 1. These are different conditions, but being underdogs takes a lot of pressure off us," added the 31-year-old Lancashire player.
Cook started his Test career in Nagpur with a hundred on debut and has good record on Indian soil like many left-handed batsmen of yesteryear’s. He scored three centuries during the last tour when he was just a two-Test old captain. This time he has loads of leadership experience and a good all-round team to boot, but would be missing the kind of experience Kevin Pietersen offered in the middle order who attacked Indian spinners during the last tour, especially in the Mumbai Test.
The visitors also lack a quality spinner like Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar who had masterminded the turnaround last time around. "It’s a very different bowling attack. Swaney and Monty, four years ago, were at the peak of their game and Monty did an outstanding job of holding in the three Tests he played. Unfortunately we don’t have that experience, but we have got guys who were successful against India in the past. We have more options in this squad and the balance of the side allows us to have six bowlers," said Cook.
England have off-spinners Moeen Ali and Gareth Batty, left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari and leg-spinner Adil Rashid in their squad. Though Ali performed well in England against India, he will have to adjust quickly to Indian conditions. Spin will be the biggest challenge for the visiting batsmen.