Trent Bridge, July 29: India are fast approaching a moment of truth: are they worthy of holding the tag of the Number 1 ranked Test team in the world? Or are they generous enough to concede that title to the challengers England? The indications at the Lord's encounter a few days back is that a new world order is in the offing with England having skinned India's derriere in the opening match of the tour. But the right answer awaits on the hitherto calm surface of Trent Bridge, Nottingham where India are all set to lock horns with a fired-up English side.
So what if the Indian pace spearhead Zaheer Khan is as yet convalescing from injury and won't be able to lead the Indian attack? The left-arm pace spearhead anyway didn't have all that fruitful a time when he first went scalp-hunting on this ground in 2002. Indeed, he returned mediocre figures (by his usually high standards) of 3/110 in the encounter. A cause for this drop in performance was the fact that Nottingham was clearly conducive for batsmen. Why even Harbhajan Singh managed to notch up a quick-fire half-century in the first innings.
Thus, the strip at Trent Bridge is well-suited to the reams of batting prowess and experience that India possesses in their ranks. Going by the adage "old is gold", India has a right jewellery shop of a middle-order with a trio of pedigree batsmen in the current squad - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid an VVS Laxman - having all played and excelled here 9 years ago.
In order to play to their strength, they will have to fortify themselves from the exposure of the all-too blatant chinks in their armour. Thus, Dravid will have to temper his propensity to poke outside the off-stump, Laxman will have to ensure that timing remains an integral part of his otherwise attractive stroke-play and Sachin will have to ditch the defending and play his drive-based natural game. Whatever India can garner from the shaky opening combination of new-comer Abhinav Mukund and Gautam Gambhir will be a bonus.
Meanwhile, Indian pacemen Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma have demonstrated tremendous potential, but now will have to make no bones about tapping the same. There won't be much seam to exploit and with the weather forecast at Nottingham looking bright, moisture too might elude them. So they had best take a leaf out of the potent English pace attack and bowl with more consistency and verve.
Dhoni would be better off reposing faith in his premier bowlers, instead of pulling out maverick stunts like bringing himself on to bowl. The clumsy fielding from the visitors too will have to disappear out the window, lest the robust English batting line-up be let off the hook to dish out their bloated partnerships. India will no-doubt be training their guns against the likes of Kevin Pietersen Jonathan Trott, but must simultaneously aim to nip defiant ripostes from the latter order in the bud.
All in all, India have a chance to stick it to a pumped up English side and come out tops in this crucial second Test....