There has been much debate and heated discussions on whether India deserve to be No.1 or England are more worthy. The supporters of both sides are busy backing their own teams. The experts have lavished praise on the English side for their 196-run win at Lord's, while India have been taken to task for their below par show. But, while experts from England and other countries have gone all the way in saying that it is England and not India who should be No.1, most from India have avoided going this far and have stopped at their usual criticism. I don't blame them, nobody wants to write-off their own team. Heck, we don't even give up on our teams when there is barely any hope, this Indian team still has a lot of firepower.
However, despite all this, I do believe England are worthy of the top spot. But, by this I do not mean they are the best cricketing side currently, as for that they would have to be on top of their game in all formats, which is not the case. They are just better than others, including India, when it comes to Test cricket. In ODIs and T20s, India still hold the advantage and the best team tag, and that is probably because the absence of depth and quality in their bowling department hurts them far lesser in the shorter formats.
People tend to forget the value of bowlers during an ODI, or even more, a T20 tournament, but Tests serve a good reminder of the fact, apart from many other things. Keeping the Lord's win aside, England are a more balanced and better side in Tests. While both India and England have a solid batting line-up, England take the edge courtesy their power-packed pace battery, that has a very able spinning ally in Graeme Swann. The attacking spinner has in fact played a winning hand in many of England's victories in the last few years. And, that is exactly the beauty of this English side - no over-reliance on a single player - whether in batting or bowling. One match has James Anderson struggling and Chris Tremlett or Stuart Broad making up for him while the next one sees Jimmy winning it single-handedly.
On the Indian front, with Zaheer Khan ruled out of the 2nd Test, the odds for an Indian comeback at Trent Bridge have already dwindled. Whereas despite Tremlett also being sidelined for England, there was little cause for concern for the hosts, as a suitable and equally capable replacement in Tim Bresnan was available. While the lack of good replacements for the Indian team's ageing middle-order gets much attention, people forget to debate the dearth of quality options to spearhead the pace attack in the absence of Zaheer. Although only 32, Zaheer anyway seems to be ageing faster than his 4-5 years seniors Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Oh yes, they do remember the pacer from time to time, but only when he is inflicted by injury and missing out on the action. Sadly, even Indian fans don't realize the importance of Zaheer unless he's out with an injury - the batting stars enjoy all the spotlight.
There was a time when England were all about Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, but Freddie is long gone and while KP still continues to be an intrinsic part of the team, the batting doesn't fall apart if he fails to contribute. In fact, despite his double ton in the Lord's Test, KP is no longer even the most consistent English batsman, that honour would go to Alastair Cook or even more, Jonathan Trott, the unsung hero of the side. Trott, with his consistency, lends amazing stability to the batting line-up and is probably one of the most prized wickets currently.
But, there are bigger challenges awaiting Team India at Nottingham. Lord's has been lost but Trent Bridge holds fresh hope for the team. But, will the side famous for its bouncing back ways show another revival here and prove me and many experts wrong, that too without Zaheer? Well, that is an answer worth waiting for. I don't fancy their chances, but this is sport and just like a fairytale, anything can happen in it.