Guerilla Cricket's own "Wizard" Anindya Dutta rips a couple of sharp turners past Tony (and England's) optimistic outside edge.
Joe Root is the greatest batsman to have walked the earth (only because no one in England has seen him tread water yet). His tally of centuries is going to be 16 at the end of the tour. The only question is how many of them will be doubles.
Jimmy Anderson is going to pick up a five – wicket haul in every alternate innings. All that remains to be determined are the names of the fortunate colleagues who will lap up the leftovers of the Indian takeaway.
Dom Bess and Jack Leach are about to do a 'Swann-Monty' on an unsuspecting India. Nah! This could be even better – a dream combine – Laker-Verity in tandem on Indian pitches.
I know England is in lockdown and one tends to have more time on one's hands to dream, to fantasize, to lay aside typical English understatement and be prone to stepping high, wide and plentiful with words over a pint or two by the fireside. But the euphoria of obliterating a Sri Lankan team that would struggle to keep myself and Bear from claiming two of the bowling slots, is best deflated in the quarantined comfort of the Chennai hotel. I say this as a well – wisher, lest it persist by the time Root and his men wake up on the morning of the Test match.
Here is the reality check folks. Two days before England's acid test kicks off at Chennai, it's time to go easy on the headiness of the Madras Curry. You are in India. It's a few hundred miles and a universe away from Sri Lanka. It's time to get real if you don't want to be a lesser ingredient in a Vindaloo.
Adelaide. 36 all out. There, I said it. It happened. Shit happens. Get over it. India has. If you haven't, be prepared for the consequences.
First, if you think Ajinkya Rahane is going into the series a bitter man for having had to hand the mantle of captaincy back to Virat Kohli, you are deluding yourself. The Indian cricket team of 2021 is just that – a Team. It's not a collection of ageing superstars with enormous egos being held together by a reconciliatory leader. That was 2011. That led to 0-8 in England and Australia.
A lot has changed in the decade since then. India is led by a captain who stands tall among the Top 5 captains in the history of Test cricket, just a few places above his opposite number. This India doesn't go for knee jerk reactions unlike 1984. David Gower will be the first to admit that. It is a team that Kohli and Shastri have nurtured and built over a 6-year period to high performance levels Indian cricket has never witnessed. From fitness to mental resolve and everything in between, just as they (mistakenly) say in stock markets – this time it's different. As it so happens, for Indian cricket, this time it IS different.
The fact that India's ninth choice pace bowler combined with the sixth-choice spinner to dismiss Australia twice should tell you something. The fact that a captain called a meeting at midnight (hours before he took the flight for the birth of his first child), after being humiliated at Adelaide and decided he needed to be replaced by a spinning allrounder, reflects the way this team thinks. The fact that India is coming to England next summer and will only practice against its 'A' squad should be a red signal to the English establishment.
But back to the matchups for the series.
Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad in tandem are a sight for sore eyes and Indian fans are eagerly waiting to see them ply their craft. Rohit Sharma and Subhman Gill taking them to the cleaners, is the icing that will make that cake complete. The slaughter that will follow from Pujara, Kohli and Rahane will only be topped by the combined mayhem of Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya's bats.
What will Joe Root do when he wins the toss? The decision will be quite irrelevant one suspects. Does England really want to subject its sorry bunch of openers to the skill and mastery of the greatest pace attack currently in world cricket (Sorry Cummins, Hazelwood and Starc. You guys handed over that tag after the weeks that have just passed)? Sadly, it will have to, and only Jos Buttler (if he manages to stay in the non-striker's crease) can save an early collapse.
Joe Root has hit a purple patch with his bat after a long time out in the wilderness. It's a fact that England have never lost a Test match when Root has scored a century. And the Indian think tank have known that he is the one to target as was the case with Steve Smith. When Smith's downfall tactics were planned months ago, you can be sure that Root's weaknesses were laid bare and counters determined on the whiteboard alongside, on the hundreds of zoom calls that Shastri's coaching staff did together in Lockdown.
Ravichandran Ashwin has snatched the mantle of the world's best off spinner in no uncertain manner from Nathan Lyon over a mesmerizing Aussie summer. At home, where he is the most impactful spin bowler in the history of the Indian cricket (read Wizards* for details), in the company of Kuldeep Yadav, wrist spinner extraordinaire (who incredibly struggles to make this team), Ashwin will wipe the plate clean of the head, the middle or the tail of the English fish, depending on which part of the anatomy he is left to devour after Jasprit Bumrah and his band of merry men have had their fill.
If the English team draw any comfort from India's record at Ahmedabad (although one struggles to understand why), they would do well to remember that this is a completely new stadium with a surface that's never been played on. So just as they say in Mutual Fund disclaimers, past performance is not a reflection of the future.
Finally Chennai. It's been the happy hunting ground for many a famous Indian victory, a few of them over the English. Spin has largely played a role in these triumphs including a certain Laxman Sivaramakrishnan's 12-wicket haul in 1984.
But this is 2021. There is good reason to believe there will be assistance for pace bowling up front. Over the past five years, Indian pace bowlers have taken more wickets at a significantly lower average than any combination from any other Test playing nation. And when by the third day or so the wicket takes spin (as Indian soil will ensure it does regardless of what the curator does), there is Ashwin to contend with at home.
There is only one way this series is going to go and the faster English fans are reconciled to that, the less painful the lockdown blues. In the spirit of post-Christmas generosity, a final series card that reads 3-1 India would reflect a job well done for the visitors.
Let the slaughter begin.
*Anindya's best seller "Wizards: The Story of Indian Spin Bowling is available at alll good book stores or you can watch him discuss it with Tony.