A brand-new series and the first ever Test after a Pandemic – a lot is being expected out of the India vs England four-Test series as the two teams get ready to lock horns in the opener in Chennai on Friday, with sights set on getting a step closer to the World Test Championships final berth. India currently top the table with 430 points while England sit at No.4 with 412 points.
India will start favourites after their remarkable series win in Australia. However, there is no place for complacency and the team management certainly is well aware of that. India will have Virat Kohli back in the fold which is indeed a huge boost to the team’s morale. Ajinkya Rahane, who led the team to the memorable series win Down Under, will assist Kohli as the Vice-Captain.
Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin will also make their way back into the team after recovering from injuries sustained in Australia. India, at this moment, are spoilt for choices to pick their Playing XI. The youngsters excelled in the Aussie conditions and having Bumrah and Ashwin back may mean some of the top young performers in Australia may have to watch the match from the dug-out.
Ishant Sharma is likely to join Bumrah in the XI and, depending on the turf, India will decide whether to play another seamer or to go for three spinners. Kuldeep Yadav will mostly make the cut as the second spinner and if India choose to go with a three-spinner strategy, we might see either Washington Sundar or Axar Patel getting picked as well.
India have already confirmed that Rishabh Pant will do the custodian’s job behind the wickets. We are most likely going to see Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma combine yet again for the opening slot, followed by Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Rahane and Pant.
England, meanwhile, have been trying out a rotation policy for players which has met with heavy criticism from a lot of former players. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer will return to the fold after being kept out from the entire Sri Lanka series, which England had won 2-0. They have decided to keep wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler only for the first Test, while Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran will be rested for the first two Tests. To make matters critical, opener Zak Crawley is already out of the first two Tests due to a wrist injury.
India’s primary thorn in the flesh is perhaps going to be Joe Root, who will cap his 100th Test on Friday. His current form is certainly a matter of worry for the Indian thinktank. Root amassed 426 runs in 4 innings against Sri Lanka with a century and a double (186 and 228). Root has been extremely efficient against spinners, courtesy his affinity towards sweep shots. Out of a total 453 runs scored against spinners in India, Root plundered 120 runs from all types of sweep shots.
Talking about head-to-head, England have a great lead, winning 47 out of 122 matches while India have 26 wins to their name. Having said that, India have not lost a Test series at home since 2012 and the last time the two teams met in India in 2016, the hosts beat the visitors 4-0.