England return to India on a wave of goodwill, which is unlikely to change regardless of the outcome of the Test series.
It is fair to say that a lot has happened in the two weeks since India and England last met and everyone involved, for a wide variety of reasons, will be relieved when the first Test gets under way at Chennai.
The match itself is still not being talked about, which shows how significant it is that England even made the return trip to India. A result of a Test match has not been so incidental for a long time.
This, it should be said, suits England. As commendable as their return is, the convincing series defeat that surely awaits them would otherwise have been heavily scrutinised, coming on the back of home Test series defeats to India and South Africa and limited overs disasters in the Caribbean and the ill-fated One Day series that preceded this two match rubber.
Peter Moores’ position is becoming increasingly unstable, with his responsibilities as coach and power in the dressing room seemingly steadily decreasing as Kevin Pietersen’s captaincy develops. Another poor showing might have hastened the search for a successor that will start in earnest if the Ashes are not retained next summer.
However, England’s chances are not as slim as they might have been. The distraction and lack of preparation of the last two weeks has been more of a factor for the home side – the ‘close to home’ phrase used by the England camp after the Mumbai attacks should really be attributed to the Indian players – and if anyone is going to be inhibited and negatively affected by recent events, it is the hosts.
India buckled under pressure and threw away a series lead in the 2006 meeting between the teams, but they are now a more experienced and rounded team that has its eyes on the number one ranking.
England have won just two of the 13 Tests they have played against India since last winning a series against them in 1996 and in ordinary circumstances would not be expected to prevail this time around. However, extraordinary circumstances should not bring an extraordinary result and England can look forward to the rare occurrence of emerging from a series defeat with their reputations enhanced.
Written by Philip Oliver, a sports writer who blogs about cricket betting.