England have grounds for caution
England’s four-game series with India takes them to one ground where they have a reasonable record, one where they do not, another where they have played a single Test and one that will be new to them.
The first two Tests will be in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, the cities that were due to host England in late 2008 prior to the terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Chennai and Mohali consequently staged those two matches.
The Sardar Patel Stadium will host the series opener from November 15, only its second England Test. The rubber then moves to the Wankhede Stadium, venue of last year’s World Cup final. The Wankhede has more than double the capacity of the Brabourne Stadium, the original location of the 2008 Test in Mumbai.
The teams then head east for the last two matches at Kolkata and Nagpur, the latter where Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar made their England debuts in early 2006 at the old ground.
Captain Cook’s squad are due to depart the United Kingdom tomorrow, initially for three days at the International Cricket Council Global Cricket Academy in Dubai.
They then fly to Mumbai for warm-up contests at the Brabourne Stadium and the Dr DY Patil Sports Academy. Their third and final warm-up is at Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium.
The Sardar Patel Stadium is an imposing structure, which can hold around 54,000 spectators, built on the banks of the Sabarmati river on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Also known as the Motera, after its location, it was renovated ahead of the 2006 Champions Trophy.
England’s only previous Test there was the drawn second game of three in December 2001. The hosts had won the opener but Nasser Hussain’s side responded via Craig White’s sole Test ton and the recalled Ashley Giles’ then Test-best 5-67. India won the series 1-0.
The ground is notable for having seen Sunil Gavaskar reach 10,000 Test runs versus Pakistan in March 1987 and, almost seven years later, Kapil Dev’s 432nd scalp to take him past Richard Hadlee as the leading Test wicket-taker.
Having initially favoured bowlers, leading to three positive results in its maiden four Tests, the surface has since become slow and low, resulting in five draws from seven. However, South Africa won in three days during April 2008, having skittled India for 76 first up.
The Wankhede Stadium was the third Test venue in Mumbai, making its debut in January 1975. England first played there two years later in a draw. Since then they have won two and lost three.
The first of those victories was the one-off Golden Jubilee game during February 1980 when Ian Botham’s 13 wickets and first-innings century aided a 10-wicket triumph. England famously won there again in March 2006 when the hosts were dismissed for 100 to lose by 212 runs and share the series 1-1.
Being on the coast, the 45,000-capacity ground offers morning assistance to seamers and turn for spinners late in the game but also rewards good batting.
At double the capacity of the Wankhede, Eden Gardens in Kolkata is by far the largest stadium of the series and the one with the most history.
It has staged 37 Tests going back to January 1934 when Douglas Jardine led England to a draw. They have since won one, lost three and drawn four, the victory coming in January 1977 with centurion Tony Greig at the helm.
Eden Gardens’ first 26 Tests featured 17 draws but England’s last visit, in January 1993, began a run of nine positive outcomes from 11.
The ground was renovated for last year’s World Cup but was not ready to host India versus England, although it staged other games, so the latter’s players had to make do with two limited-overs internationals there last October.
England played just one Test at the old Vidarbha Cricket Association Ground in Nagpur, a draw in March 2006 during which Cook and Paul Collingwood hit unbeaten hundreds and Matthew Hoggard returned first-innings figures of 6-57.
The Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, with a capacity of 45,000, is located outside the city. Although it favours batsmen, its three Tests thus far - the first in November 2008 - have yielded positive results which could make for an entertaining denouement.