MUMBAI: Sachin Tendulkar reckons England's pace attack has the potential to trouble India with reverse swing but expects Virat Kohli's men to come out on top in the four-test series starting in Chennai on Friday.
The hosts are still on a high from their astonishing 2-1 series win in Australia when an injury-stricken side scripted one of the greatest comebacks in the sport after the humiliation of being bundled out for 36 in the opening test defeat in Adelaide.
"Given the squad that we have, a number of players have come back and they are fit," Tendulkar told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday. "One is obviously expecting India to beat England because we have a very strong and balanced team.
"But England also did well in Sri Lanka, so it will be a good series but India should be able to come out victorious."
India have lost only one of the last 35 matches they have hosted and boast a record 12 successive test series wins at home, including a 4-0 series victory during England's previous tour in 2016-17.
England, however, are the last team to have triumphed in India in 2012-13 and have arrived in the country after blanking Sri Lanka 2-0 in their away series.
Tendulkar predicted a good contest.
"England has a good bowling attack. Experienced bowlers and also backed by exuberance of youth," the 47-year-old said.
"But our batsmen are competent and totally capable of putting big totals on the scoreboard which will allow the bowlers to put pressure on England batters. Right now the team is bubbling with confidence."
Some pundits have raised questions whether England's spin duo of Jack Leach and Dom Bess would be able to trouble the hosts vaunted batting line-up but Tendulkar believes the fast bowlers could have a big role to play.
Labelling spin-bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali as the "dark horse", Tendulkar feels the ability to make the old ball swing in a reverse direction in the air could be crucial.
"I disagree little bit about Indian pitches not being conducive to fast bowlers," said Tendulkar, who remains the most prolific run-scorer in tests.
"Because on Indian pitches even when the ball gets old reverse swing plays a big role. From my experience I would say critical overs are from 15th to 60th, that's when reverse swing plays a big role."
Tendulkar believes England's pace attack, made up of the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, are capable of putting reverse swing to good use.
"If you look at someone like Anderson, he's had success here. Broad has bowled well," Tendulkar added. "Archer is someone who's going to come and bowl short spells at a good pace and then the ball starts reversing ... that is something that Archer can be handy at. Ben Stokes is another one."
The test in Chennai will be the first in India since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year.
Tendulkar compared the occasion to 2008 when England returned to India to play the first of a two-test series in the same city after cutting short the ODI leg of the tour following a militant attack in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.
The batting great scored an unbeaten hundred in the fourth innings to help the hosts chase down a massive 387 runs for a six-wicket win.
"I hope it is the same result like last time and the series begins on the right note," Tendulkar said.
"It's a coincidence that we are playing England after the pandemic and at the same venue."