It will take a "monumental effort" from India to outwit England at home in the upcoming five-Test series as Virat Kohli's men might suffer from "mental fatigue" by the end of a long tour, feels former captain and opener Alastair Cook.
India are currently playing the World Test Championship final against New Zealand at Southampton. It will be followed by the Test series against England starting August 4.
"India have shown how good they are at the moment because they're in the World Test Championship final but, over five Test matches in England, England are hard to beat at home, and I'm expecting a very tight battle," Cook was quoted as saying by 'ESPNcricinfo'.
"India would have been here for a long time as well so could get mentally fatigued by the end of the tour. India will start pretty well but, consistently over five games, to beat England at home is a monumental effort. So I think if England hang in with India early on, there's no reason why they can't win."
England have lost the away series in India 1-3 before suffering a 1-0 defeat against New Zealand earlier this month. Cook said England have been left "chasing their tail" in the last few Tests due to an incorrect rotation policy which has robbed skipper Joe Root the opportunity to play his best XI.
The new rest-and-rotate policy in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen many of England's top players being left out of the squad in the last eight Tests.
"You have to say it hasn't worked for Rooty, and I do genuinely feel sorry for him," said Cook. "When you're playing for England, or you're the captain, coach or selector, you get judged on end results most of the time and he hasn't had his best players available.You can't buy the experience of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali -- those kind of players make a big difference."
While injuries to key players such as pacer Jofra Archer and all-rounder Ben Stokes have not helped, the problems for England compounded due to the breaks being given to the likes of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Mark Wood.
"The decisions don't seem like they've been made correctly," said England's all-time leading Test run-scorer, Cook, who had retired in 2018. "I've been on the other side, where you're trying to make decisions for the right reasons, but you get judged on your results by it, don't you?
"It was going so well, winning Test series at home, then Sri Lanka away and 1-0 up against India. Then you rest and rotate players, and ever since that moment on it's been chasing their tail a little bit."
Stokes, who had broken his finger during the IPL, has recently returned to action with a stint for Durham and Cook said it will provide a much needed balance to the side ahead of the India series.
"It will be a better side with the players coming back against India," said Cook, who has scored 12,472 runs in 161 Tests.They'll clearly be better balanced which, I think, is a massive issue for them and forced some strange selections against New Zealand, like no spinner on a dry wicket," he said.
Cook, who led England in 59 Tests before handing the reins to Root in 2016, said fortunately he "never had to captain during a pandemic".
"...I didn't even know what a pandemic was when I was captain -- but you've got a Test captain who hasn't been able to play his best side."
England will take on India in a Test series at home next and Cook warned against any drastic changes to the top order comprising Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence.