One of the most highly anticipated and tantalizing encounters in the white jerseys is less than 12 hours away now from commencement. The ghosts of the 2012 England tour of India will remain very much in the back of everyone’s minds, but the scenario has changed quite drastically this present day, mostly to the home side’s favor.
Alastair Cook and company, who entered the Indian territories after a humiliating defeat in Dhaka (Bangladesh defeated England by 108 runs), will find things even more complicated and petrifying here. India on the side of the coin, whitewashed the Kiwis on tracks which were not completely spinner friendly.
With the Decision Review System coming into play, it will be interesting to see if BCCI’s doubts over the system will get vanished or not. India were the only Test playing nation currently who were unwilling to accept the DRS system and in this series too, they have accepted it just to trial the system.
Getting to the point, Cook and Joe Root’s fortitude and solidity will be tested quite unequivocally and this is one great chance for the latter to prove himself in the subcontinent. The 19 year old Lancashire opener Haseeb Hameed is all set to make his debut and if he does, he will enter the record books as the youngest ever English batsmen to open the innings.
Jonny Bairstow in the middle will be another key batsman, alongside the inform Ben Stokes and the very resilient Moeen Ali. The entire English batting unit will go through a torrid time considering the kind of form Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra have been in and if Virat Kohli decides to go with 3 spinners, it will indeed be nightmare for the English.
Though their talisman James Anderson will be out for the first game, the likes of Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn have been in great form over the last few months. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid will have a bigger part to play, to exploit the spinner friendly conditions.
A momentous occasion its going to be for the charismatic Stuart Broad, who will be making his 100th Test appearance for the English side. With 360 wickets in his 99 previous Tests, he formed an impeccable duo with James Anderson, which many people rate as one of the all time great bowling duos.
Indians will also be keen to settle things with their rivals, will enter this game as the hot favorites, which in itself is an added burden on the shoulders of Virat Kohli. With KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan out of the scenes due to injuries, the veteran Delhi batsman Gautam Gambhir is likely to open alongside Murali Vijay.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will comprise the middle order and only a miracle will bring about any changes in the line up. The management has been contemplating from sometime to make Ashwin a regular number 6, but only time will suggest if he can cope up with it. With Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja to follow as well, this is a team that bats deep.
The bowling combination is something which will be a little trickery, but many feel Kohli might go with 4 bowlers and Hardik Pandya as a 5th bowler, but Mishra’s chances of getting into the side cannot be discarded as well.
Ishant Sharma makes a comeback to the side, after he was ruled out of the New Zealand series due to an injury.
This is something many have been telling right from the outset, the outcome of the series will depend on how the English batsmen tackle Ashwin and Jadeja. Ashwin put up a stellar show against the Kiwis and is currently at the helm of the ICC Test bowlers’ rankings.
England, who triumphed over India in the previous three occasions these teams collided, have to do something extravagantly brilliant to replicate anything of sorts. Taking into consideration team India’s test run in recent times and England ability to pull out something out of nothing, one heck an intriguing series is on the cards.
VENUE: Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot
TELECAST: Star Sports Network, from 9.30 AM IST
India (From): Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha(w), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jayant Yadav, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya
England (From): Alastair Cook(c), Ben Duckett, Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow(w), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Adil Rashid, Steven Finn, Jake Ball, Gareth Batty, Jos Buttler, Haseeb Hameed, Zafar Ansari