At least there is a chance that by the end of next summer we will know whether England or India has the better cricket team.

They are to meet in five Tests — squashed together into 42 days at the height of the season — a proper series to decide which great side is likely to soar into the stratosphere.

It is impossible to say whether the winner will be the best side in the world — there is a tough winter ahead for England in Australia and India must fight off those hard nuts from South Africa — but it will be the biggest sporting occasion.

It is a mouth-watering prospect even in a country dedicated to the Ashes series which has just been such a disappointment even if the much stronger side won against an Australian team which was among the weakest ever fielded by that outstanding cricket country. Believe me it will be a must for every section of our community, British or Indian.

“We expect to sell a significant number of tickets,” said David Collier, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board. He has to be kidding.

Last time India came here — for a four-Test series and three one-day games — 800,000 spectators sat enthralled throughout even though it was more one-sided than this year’s Ashes. India, waning by the day, lost all four Tests and three one-dayers. Surely a five-Test series will sell more.

The romantics and the dreamers will recall Dilip Vengsarkar’s Lord’s centuries and Kapil Dev’s victory there and Sunil Gavaskar almost winning a Test at the Oval. An England-India series always makes the blood run hot.

I remember sitting in a bistro in Cardiff as the rain threatened the final ODI and catching Paul Collingwood’s eye not too far away. “You might not have to play tomorrow,” I said as the rain beat against the roof.

“What do you want to say that for?” he asked angrily. “We have the chance of a second whitewash. We are desperate to play.”

Sadly, Collingwood is no longer playing international cricket but his spirit has been left in this vibrant England dressing room. He was not the greatest cricketer of all time but he would happily have sacrificed every pound in his bank account to win a Test.

Now England is tougher still as Stuart Broad showed at Old Trafford when he refused to walk even though he knew he had just edged the ball to be caught at slip. I cannot condone that act, but it is a warning to anyone who tackles England at the moment. It is no pushover; push these heroes and they shove you right back.

It will have every advantage at home, with reinforcements to hand, the crowd roaring and willing it to invoke the Collingwood spirit.

Two important questions remain. Here there are rumours that Andy Flower will quit as coach after the tour of Australia. I wonder if he wants to spend more time watching his children grow up and is ready to take over as coach at Essex to make sure.

Just as important: will we see Sachin Tendulkar? Rumours abound that he will retire after his 200th Test; he says he has not decided. On the other hand he has demonstrated more than once that he is fond of this country, where he played for Yorkshire as a teenager and made his first Test century at Old Trafford.

Tendulkar’s presence would crown what should be a glorious summer of cricket. One final Tendulkar triumphant progress to see old friends will surely be the right end to a glorious career.

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