Mumbai: Virat Kohli-led side dashed England’s hopes to draw the fifth Test as the hometeam won the final Test by an innings and 75 runs to complete 4-0 series win over Alastair Cook and Co here on Tuesday.
While India, playing at home, were always favourites, England went down against relentless hosts to concede their biggest series defeat on the Indian soil.
Although former England skippers Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen had predicted a tough time for England, it was ex-India captain, Sourav Ganguly, who had backed India to win the series by a margin of 3-0 or 4-0. His words rang true as Karun Nair, who scored a maiden Test triple ton, held on to a fine catch in the second slip off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling.
England, who had won the previous three Test series against India, are not favourites to win this time around despite a possibility of James Anderson playing a part in the series from the Visakhapatnam Test. While England would be eager to have Anderson back in the mixed at the first possible opportunity, Ganguly said he would not pick him in the side during the India series.
"I wouldn't play him (Anderson) in India to be honest. It's not the same Anderson as 2012,” Ganguly had told ESPNcricinfo.
"I saw him in the Test series in England recently. He has lost a bit of pace. And I think Stuart Broad and Steven Finn and Ben Stokes (will be more effective) because you will need a bit of pace in these conditions to get that ball to reverse. So I don't know whether he will make the side when he comes back. Not in Vizag (Visakhapatnam) where the ball will turn square," added Ganguly.
Ganguly reiterated why he remains against picking Anderson in England’s team even if he is fit.
"I don't see him playing in the second Test. And if I were the England captain, I would go in with two fast bowlers: (Stuart) Broad and Ben Stokes (along with Chris Woakes). A bit of zip, a bit of pace, reverse. And play three spinners. Moeen Ali, Gareth Batty and another spinner. The advantage is, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes can get runs with the bat. It makes the batting a lot longer, and you still have three spinners for these conditions. That's the way I will go, and I don't think Jimmy Anderson bowling at 80 miles an hour will find a place in my side,” said Ganguly.
While Ganguly was lavish in his praise while the discussing the team’s performance in the last few bilateral series, he said it would be a very difficult task to have an encore.
Ganguly said: "They have a great record in India to be honest. In 2006 when they came it was 1-1, when they won in Mumbai. In 2012 they won the series 2-1. India going to England and losing 4-0 and then 3-1. So England have got a great record against India but whether this England team can get past India in a five-Test series, I am not sure. Because when you look at the side that played in 2012, the most important part was those two spinners: Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. Both high-quality spinners, and both match-winners. And Jimmy Anderson at his best. The Jimmy Anderson of four years ago."
"When they caught India in 2012, it was a side that had lost 4-0 in Australia. A side whose confidence was pretty down. It was battered overseas for a long period of time. But England are now facing a side that is high on confidence. New captain. Results have come the team's way. It's going to be very, very tough for England. That's what I believe. But in sport, anything can happen," Ganguly continued.
Ganguly said that England will have to do something “magical” to get past India in the upcoming series and for that to happen Alastair Cook will have to lead from the front.
"England will have to play very, very well to get past India in this series. Not just play very, very well, do something absolutely magical. Like Alastair Cook did last time in 2012. Three back-to-back Test hundreds. Kevin Pietersen played that unbelievable knock in Mumbai. Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott getting hundreds. Somebody or the other stood up for them. Whether they have that same quality in batting, I am not too sure," said the former elegant left-handed batsman.
"He (Cook) has had success in India so he will be confident when he comes to that series. I thought he played well in Bangladesh on those tough pitches but he has got to fire. He has got to stand up for his team. Lead from the front. And people need to support him. The likes of Joe Root, who I think is an outstanding player. Ben Stokes, who I think will have a huge role in this series. These three have to fire for England consistently if they have to have some chance in the series," added Ganguly.
"He is definitely a threat for India. The wickets will spin. His confidence against India will be high as a bowler. He has definitely become a better batsman than since that trip of 2014 when he was peppered with short deliveries from Ishant Sharma and the Indian bowlers. He has definitely become a better cricketer than then. He will be tested. He needs to get runs and get wickets as well, but do they have a Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar? I don't think so,” Ganguly said.
Ganguly, the Cricket Association of Bengal president, also took a dig at Bangladesh pitches.
"Those wickets to be honest were absolute minefields. though the series was drawn 1-1, it can't get worse than that for them in terms of the surface. And I saw the pitch in the last Test. It spun from everywhere. You just had to put the ball in the right place, and it did everything. In India they are going to encounter better pitches. That sort of pitch will be on day five of the Test. But when I saw the ball land on the first day of the Test in Bangladesh, it was actually like a day-five pitch,” Ganguly concluded....