Ed Hawkins analyses the four-Test series but cannot give much hope for Alastair Cook's side...
"This England team have a horrible phobia of turn and they have not looked like overcoming it"
England begin their quest to rebuild their Test reputation with the first of four matches against India, starting in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. It is about a stiff a task as a team can get. Equally difficult is finding the reasoning to reckon they will not be soundly beaten.
The negatives stack up high and wide for Alastair Cook's side. And if an England supporter may feel depressed having read them, one wonders how those in the camp must feel about their chances.
They have the weight of history almost bending them double. Not since 1984 have an English side won there. On their four visits since they have been beaten three times. For the English tourist India is a wonderful, vibrant and adventure-filled country. For the cricketer it is hell.
Chief among the fears that keep those who were schooled on the county grounds of the Shires awake at night is the threat of spin bowling. Now more so than ever before. This England team have a horrible phobia of turn and they have not looked like overcoming it.
In the first warm-up match against India A, Yuvraj Singh took five wickets in an innings while eight of the ten to fall in the first dig against Haryana XI were to spinners. Granted England have notched strong totals in those matches but when two from Ravi Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh - who has a fine record against England - and Pragyan Ojha whirl away there will be no let up.
England look a chastened bunch these days. They have lost their captain, Andrew Strauss, to the stresses and strains of the job and there are far better places than India for a new leader to make his bow.
The defeat by South Africa on home soil dented England. They could not fathom how to break South Africa down using the tried and tested methods employed by Strauss and Andy Flower, the coach. That must undermine confidence.
We must also doubt the solidity of the group. Kevin Pietersen caused ructions and he remains a far from popular member of the dressing room. When on tour in India a cricket team needs to be more together than ever before because playing and travelling in the country throws up more challenges than most.
Their preparation for the series has been far from ideal, also. Graeme Swann, their own spin threat, has returned home because of a family illness while Steven Finn and Stuart Broad both picked up injuries which put their participation in the first Test in doubt.
India may be struggling to hide their mirth. They have had their eye on this series ever since they were whitewashed in England, losing their No 1 Test status. They felt they were humiliated by the English media and words like 'payback' and 'revenge' will be on the tip of the tongue.
They are in decent shape. Virender Sehwag, after a lengthy hiatus, is fit again as is Yuvraj following his battle with cancer. It will also be grand to see a well-rested Sachin Tendulkar. Indeed, it is something of a revitalisation for India. Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan, who have had their own bumps and bruises, can be paired in tandem while there is plenty of excitement about the nippy Umesh Yadav.
Not surprisingly India are prohibitively short at 1.4740/85 for victory with England 5.805/1 and the drawn series 5.609/2. So the series correct score market tantalises instead. The 6.4011/2 about a 3-0 India win catches the eye while 6.6011/2 for 2-0 depends on some moderate England obduracy.
India to win 2-0 at 6.611/2