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Shirin Sadikot in Mumbai 04 June 2014 - 02:47pm IST

Exciting times for England and India: Strauss

Former England captain predicts tight series between two teams seeking redemption

As the IPL hangover dies down, the focal point for Indian Cricket now shifts to England, where Team India will face their biggest challenge of the season. In what will go down as a historic occasion, for the first time since 1959, India will play a five-match Test series in England.

The importance of this series grows multifold given both teams would look at it as a chance of redemption after a recent poor run in Test cricket. While England are smarting from their Ashes debacle and the subsequent upheaval in their personnel, including a new coach, India’s most recent Test record reflects twin 0-1 defeats, in South Africa and New Zealand.

MS Dhoni’s Team will also look for salvation after losing their last two Test series against England, home and away. Andrew Strauss, the man who led England to a 4-0 whitewash of India in 2011 at home, feels it will be a closely fought series.

“I’m really excited about it,” Strauss told bcci.tv. “It’s kind of a brave, new world for English cricket after the Ashes went horribly wrong, and now, we have some new players and a new coach. It’s the same for India because their recent record away from home has been really poor. The last time they toured England they lost 0-4 and will be keen to set that right.

“I believe we’re in for a really good closely fought series, and it might be one of those series where it comes down to one or two small sessions that determine the outcome,” Strauss said.

While England have their demons to conquer, the challenge will be significantly bigger for a young Team India in the difficult English conditions, feels Strauss.

“England has probably the hardest conditions for Indian players with the seaming and swinging wickets. It will be a challenge for India because the last time they were there, they had the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid and it still wasn’t enough.

“However, I quite like the look of some of the young Indian players – Virat Kohli has been outstanding and I think the bowling attack looks pretty solid,” Strauss said.

The inexperience of Team India can be gauged from the fact that only three members of the squad – MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma – have played a Test match in England. And Gambhir hasn’t played a Test since December 2012.

While Strauss thinks experience will tilt things in the left-hander’s favour, it will be a tough choice for the team management to decide on the opening combination among Gambhir, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan.

“Gambhir is a very talented batsman and his Test record is up there with some of the best,” Strauss said of the fellow left-handed opener. “The challenge with some of these Indian batsmen is to make a transition from T20 cricket to the longer form. Gambhir seemed to be able to do that in the past and that augurs well for him and the team. I’m sure a lot of people in India are pleased to see him back in the side.

“However, Murali Vijay looks like he can handle the new ball pretty well. It does boil down to the balance of the side and also whether Gambhir has earned the right to come straight back into the XI after having been out for a long time. I think a lot will depend on how the warm-up games go.

“His experience could go his way but it’s a very exciting time for him as he needs to re-prove himself as a Test cricketer and that’s a good motivation. If he gets some runs against the counties at the start of the tour, it’s going to be very difficult for the team management not to pick him.”

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