India is now the only nation against whom England and Australia still play five-Test series — an indication of India’s position in world cricket. England tours to India have had their fair share of excitement and controversies. It was against England back in 1952 that India recorded its first ever Test victory. But from the 1950s to mid-1970s India was considered a backwater and many top English cricketers skipped a tour to India. In fact the late Tony Greig was perhaps the first incumbent England captain to tour India back in 1976-77.

That series was also known for the infamous ‘vaseline’ controversy. Indian batters found the pace of John Lever and Chris Old too hot to handle and lost the first three Tests. Indian then players alleged that Lever was applying vaseline to the ball to retain its shine. It snowballed into a big controversy, but it was an era where ball tampering, though rampant, rarely made it to the headlines or caught the authorities’ attention.

The 1981-82 series too had enough controversy surrounding it. Though the cricket played by England was dour and defensive, it was during the rest day of the Kolkata Test that a secret tour to South Africa by English ‘rebel’ cricketers was planned. South Africa then was serving an ICC ban for its apartheid political structure. This ‘rebel’ tour to South Africa spawned many such tours in the 1980s by England, Australia and even the West Indies.

The 1988-89 England tour to India was scrapped when India refused visas to the England captain Graham Gooch and seven other cricketers for having played in South Africa. The 1992-93 tour where India blanked out England 3-0 was known more for the ‘prawn attack’ — which laid low more than half the English team. The subsequent tours didn’t quite have the off field controversies of the past. This time around the on field cricket promises to be riveting.