India learnt the importance of getting acclimatized to foreign conditions the hard way in South Africa as the then visitors ended up losing a three-Test series despite being competitive throughout.
In England, Virat Kohli and his team have enough time to prepare for the upcoming five-Test series, starting August 1 in Edgbaston. In fact, India have already played eight limited-overs fixtures in the UK and some of their Test regulars are also representing India A in England.
A lot is expected of Kohli and his team, who have been nearly unbeatable at home and in the subcontinent. The three-Test series in South Africa earlier this year was a test of their character and it is safe to say, the young Indian side aced it.
The top-ranked Test team faces another stern challenge, considering India's recent track record in England — 4-0 whitewash in 2011 and a 3-1 drubbing in 2014.
The pressure is certainly on the touring side and injury concerns to key players, including Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, and Wriddhiman Saha, has only added to it. Nonetheless, with 13 more days to go for the first Test, the management has enough time to work out combinations.
Meanwhile, International Business Times India spoke to Lakshmipathy Balaji about the much-anticipated Test series. The former Indian pacer shared his thoughts on the bowling unit — the key pacers and the importance of spinners, especially towards the end of the five-Test series.
IBT: Bumrah is out of the first Test and Bhuvneshwar may follow suit. Do you think the bowling attack will be able to consistently perform over five Tests?
Balaji: India have gone on with five fast bowlers, considering the expected workload in the five-Test series.
Five bowlers are good enough for any Test series. I hope they will be able to sustain throughout the long series. At the same time, you cannot foresee injuries.
The last two Tests are the most demanding ones in a five-Test series. Getting a good start is important as it influences the rhythm and the momentum.
It's a lengthy series. [Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar] missing the first Test may not have a big impact. As far as I am concerned, batting is more important at the start of the series.
IBT: Ishant Sharma is heading into the series after a good county stint. Is it time for him to take more responsibility and lead the attack?
Balaji: He [Ishant] has been among the leadership group for the last two to three years. His Lord's spell during the 2014 series is still fresh in everyone's minds and it will be a motivating factor for him as well.
Tall bowlers have done well against England. At the same time, seam bowlers have also impressed.
Ishant's contribution thus will be huge. If you look at the other options, the likes of Umesh [Yadav] and [Mohammed] Shami will find swing consistently. If you're are looking for tight spells at one end, Ishant will be key.
IBT: Can Kohli rely on Hardik Pandya in English conditions? What do you make of his improvement as a bowler?
There has been a very good improvement in Pandya's bowling. Even in the last ODI, he got the new ball. That shows that the team management feels confident about him.
If you look at English conditions, it often helps seam bowlers. Pandya isn't a big swing bowler but a seam bowler. He should get a lot of assistance from the tracks there.
Also, he will definitely come into play in the second innings because the front-line pacers would have bowled a lot in the first innings. Good all-rounders often tend to run through sides in the second innings.
So Pandya along with the spinners will play a huge role in the third and fourth innings.
IBT: Can you share your thoughts on the inclusion of Kuldeep Yadav and the role of spinners in the upcoming tour?
The inclusion of Kuldeep Yadav is a very good move. Definitely, he is a good option to have in the spin department. We all know [Ravichandran] Ashwin and [Ravindra] Jadeja will be key but Kuldeep will be that X-factor.
Teams don't tend to experiment with their line-up too much initially. To start with, India can go with seven batsmen and four bowlers. Kuldeep can always be an option in a five-match series. He can come in anytime.
Nonetheless, spin will come into play in the fourth innings as we are in the far end of the season. We will be playing in August and the wickets would be worn out considering the amount of cricket played during the summer. There will be good assistance for wrist-spinners.
Even in the past, English and Australian spinners used to get assistance during the second half of the Ashes. I think the conditions will turn out to be an advantage for our spinners.