New Delhi: India and England are gearing up for a grueling battle ahead. But when the majority of the focus is on spinners, it is the fast men who are expected to play an equally vital role in the four-Test series starting in Ahmedabad on November 15.
Here, Cricketnext looks at whether India have a pace attack capable of consistently troubling England’s batting line-up and how it stack ups against their opponents who have brought five pacers as opposed India who have included just three.
Zaheer Khan v James Anderson:
The battle between the two will be an intriguing one as both have been the bedrock of their respective bowling line-ups for quite some time now and both are tipped to give their teams early breakthroughs. Their ability to swing the new and old ball with equal finesse makes them all the more important to their teams' cause. While Zaheer Khan has been an excellent exponent of reverse swing since the beginning of his career, James Anderson has added the art to his repertoire some time back.
Zaheer, who has a history of bowling well against the left-handers, is expected to cause trouble to England captain and opener Alastair Cook, while Anderson will pose a few questions to the Indian opening duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. But whether or not Zaheer keeps himself fit without breaking down could decide India’s chances.
Umesh Yadav v Stuart Broad:
While Stuart Broad has managed to grow in his role as a strike force for England, Umesh Yadav is still finding his feet at the international level. Broad, despite his fair share of injuries, has been one of the most successful bowlers for his side in the last 12 months, picking up 73 wickets in 16 Tests. Yadav, on the other hand, is still jostling to bring in the consistency element to his game.
But Yadav showed on India's dreadful tour to Australia, where he got his first five-for - 5 for 93 in Perth - how effective he can be with his pace if he remains consistent with his effort. Should he manage to provide breakthroughs upfront, along with Zaheer, the load on the spinners will be eased.
Ishant Sharma v Steven Finn:
The most striking feature of the two fast men is their height which helps them extract extra bounce from any surface, as well as their ability to hit the deck hard. These assets make them the go-to bowlers for their captains. But despite having quite a few advantages over some of their peers lack, both Ishant and Finn are still finding hard to get regular spots in the Test XI.
While Finn has shown fine form in limited-overs cricket, he still seems to be a step away from replicating the same success in Test cricket. Ishant, on the other hand, has always promised a lot but somehow failed to deliver the goods which were expected of him. His 133 wickets in 45 Tests show that he hasn't been the sort of force which everyone expected him to be when he burst onto the scene five years ago. The 24-year-old will want to vindicate the selectors' faith who decided to go with him and not with Ashok Dinda, who has been amongst wickets in domestic cricket, for the first two Tests against England.
Whereas India have named three fast bowlers in the squad, England have brought five.
Tim Bresnan, whose all-round ability has earned him regular spots in the England XI, will fight for the No. 7 spot with Samit Patel, who has been in good form with the bat so far on the tour. But he may get a go ahead if England decide to go in with a three-pronged pace attack, along with specialist spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.
Injuries have put paid to the career of 30-year-old Graham Onions who is rated very highly on the county circuit. Onions is more of a line and length bowler than some of his fellow fast bowlers who bang the ball short and trouble the batsmen by sending deliveries at an awkward height. A good show here will help Onions, who has taken 32 wickets in nine Tests so far, stake his claim as a regular member of the England setup.