Chennai: After their convincing victory over the Australia in the Test series, India are all set to take on England in the first starting here tomorrow, amid unprecedented security.
Despite England returning with a full-strength team, the match on paper looks heavily tilted in favour of the Indians, who bulldozed the visitors 5-0 in the ODI series. To make it worse for the visitors, Ryan Sidebottom has already been ruled out of the series, while fellow pacer Stuart Broad will also be out of action in the first Test.
Landing in the city with just 60 hours left for the toss, England hardly had any time for acclimatisation as a spell of rain and wet outfield hampered their workouts.
The presence of gun-totting policemen, NSG commandos and Rapid Action Force personnel in every nook and corner of the stadium would be weighing more in the minds and the Poms had to dish out some top notch stuff to match the Indian batting.
But India could not remain complacent and under-estimate their opponents and would be keen to maintain the same intensity with which they won five ODIs on the trot.
'We need to have the same intensity as in the ODIs against England and in the home series against Aussies. It will be so.'' He said the team would also like to keep up the winning streak and end the year on a high note with a test series win against England also.
''I can't disclose our plan in the tests against England, but I believe it is important to win and end the year on a good note,'' Dhoni said, adding England had a better bowling attack than Australia and that the Indians are prepared to take on them.
''What the batting needs is a good start and a good patnership in the middle coupled with good fielding later on,'' Dhoni said.
In paper, India start as firm favourites as they were bolstered by the return of in-form Yuvraj Singh, who struck back to back hundreds in the ODIs. Skipper M S Dhoni is unlikely to tinker with the winning combination and would play leggie Amit Mishra and Yuvraj Singh in the playing eleven to fill the void created by the retirement of former skippers Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly.
Yuvraj, who last played a test match against the Proteas early this year, in all likelihood was expected to bat at Number six, a slot vacated by Ganguly.
It's very difficult to look beyond India. Openers Virender Sehwag, twice triple centurion, and Gautam Gambhir were in ominous form.
The experience of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, with the inspirational leadership of cool-headed Dhoni, poses a formidable challenge to the Englishmen.
Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, who tormented the Australians with his pace and swing, would spearhead the bowling attack. Munaf Patel was expected to play the role of a third seamer and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra would be handling the spin.
The only worry for India was the wretched batting form of Rahul Dravid, who needs to spend a lot more time in the middle to get back his silken touch. And the lukcy Chennai would be the place for the former skipper to be back among the runs.
kipper Kevin Pietersen oozed confidence of a better showing in the Test series and was expected to pack the bowling with quickies, with leftarmer Monty Panesar being the lone spin attack. England, already handicapped by the absence of injured Ryan Sidebottom, was likely to field swing bowler Amjad Khan in the playing XI to support Stuard Broad, the chief wicket taker in the ODIs, James Anderson and Steve Harmison.
Much would depend on openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, who had to give the team a nice start for the middle order to consolidate. Ian Bell would come in at number three, followed by Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood.