Everyone is on the edge of their seats as both India and England gear up for a historic encounter. The last time India visited England in 2014, the visitors came back with a score line of 1-3. The only victory that came was at the iconic Lord’s stadium in which Ishant Sharma led the Indian bowling attack to make periodic inroads in the English batting lineup.
Several players of the 2014 team are also part of the current team touring England. Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma were all there at the helm when India fought it out in 2014.
A prominent member missing the lineup is wicket-keeper batsman MS Dhoni. Dhoni was not only a very handy batsman but also lead the side in his unique style. Now with the command in the hands of Virat Kohli, India are certainly going to be a bit more aggressive.
However, just before the start of the match all talk is about the Indian playing XI and how the team will choose personnel that are best fit for the job.
After various rounds of brainstorming we at Sportsrush have shortlisted a certain playing XI which is delineated below:
The century that KL Rahul scored against England in the 1st T20I was one to cherish. Rahul is such a technically correct batsman that it is quite tempting to include him in the playing XI. He also has a few aggressive shots in his book.
For he has controlled aggression which is what is required in the swinging and seaming conditions of England where weathering the storm is as important as showing some flair.
Along with KL Rahul, Murali Vijay will open the innings for India. This effectively means that Shikhar Dhawan will miss out at least in the first Test. Vijay is also a good judge of the ball specially outside the off stump and has this ability of tiring the bowlers.
In conditions such as England, it is required to see off the initial overs so that it makes things more comfortable for the following batsmen.
Despite a forgettable form and a county stint devoid of any heroics, Cheteshwar Pujara remains India’s most trusted No 3 batsman. He has the ability of playing for long sessions and this is something that would come in handy against the fierce spells of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Even coach Ravi Shastri had some kind words to say for Pujara:
“He’s an extremely experienced player. I feel he is one innings away [from a big score]. He needs to spend time at the crease. If he gets one 60-70 under his belt, he will be a different player altogether. My job is to make sure he is thinking in that fashion. We have seen once he gets in, he makes it count. He is one player who will really make it count and hold the innings together, so he becomes important.
“Pujara is an anchor. He has been one of the pillars of this batting line-up for a long time. You know what he does – he loves batting (smiles). We just want him to do it. Unfortunately, in South Africa he was run out a couple of times [in the same Test in Centurion].
“That is something we don’t want. We don’t want him to be an Usain Bolt, we want him to be Pujara. Stay there at the crease. The last thing you want to do is give your wicket away to a run-out.”
Shastri has also said that Pujara is just one good knock away from bouncing back to form and the batsman must believe the same.
Following Pujara at number 4 is Virat Kohli who is that talk of the town. His abysmal record in England in 2014 where he managed an average of only 13.40 across 10 innings is brought up every time Kohli’s overseas record is discussed.
However, one has to move on from something that happened 4 years back. Now he is a much improved batsman and expectations are rife that he would score in England as well as he has in all other countries. The captain himself would love to lead from the front and put some runs on the board.
Rahane’s patchy form is a certain cause of concern for the Indian team management. However, class is always preferred over form. In the third Test against South Africa, Rahane showed signs of coming back to his classical self.
India would desperately need this to stage a fight against England in their home conditions. Nothing would be more beneficial for India than Rahane bouncing back into form as a long string of overseas tools awaits.
WICKET-KEEPR & ALL-ROUNDERS
Regular wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha will undergo surgery in England after a sustained shoulder injury and will be out of competitive cricket for a long time. His place would be filled in by Dinesh Karthik.
It was believed that Saha had a thumb injury but as has been recently disclosed that it was actually a shoulder injury sustained during the South Africa tour.
It was very unfortunate that Karthik got run out in the test match against Afghanistan but he presents a very strong case for selection on the UK tour. The Tamil Nadu keeper-batsman has a good enough technique and has improved his keeping by leaps and bounds. Karthik can be instrumental for the balance of the side.
Hardik Pandya’s inclusion in the Indian team gave a lot of balance to the side in limited overs cricket. It was really a blessing as Pandya quickly became the bridge between batting and bowling.
These days, he has improved his bowling in the limited-overs as well and is bowling his full quota of 10 overs which was not the case earlier. He is a handy batsman as well lower down the order and can really hurt the opposition bowlers.
Pandya has a wiry physique but possess tremendous strength and has the capability of clearing any boundary in the world. But the deal that matters is about his bowling. Is he good enough as the third seamer? Well, at least Virat Kohli thinks so.
Ravichandran Ashwin remains India’s number one choice spinner. Although he has not produced his characteristic magical spells in foreign conditions as he has done in India but 300 test wickets count for something.
The spin wizard could not be sidelined so easily. Along with his bowling credentials, his batting has also come to India’s rescue several times. Ashwin is more than a capable batsman and has the potential of producing a 50 in difficult circumstances.
Kuldeep Yadav stole the show on his maiden England tour. He was the most threatening Indian bowler in the limited overs leg against England. The English batsmen failed to pick him up and this is the reason why he found a place in the Test squad.
Captain Virat Kohli was so impressed by Kuldeep that he batted for picking him in the Test squad.
“These two wrist spinners have been making the difference since they have come in. They did it in South Africa in the middle overs. They remain as our key weapons. Anything is possible with the selections for Tests and there might be a few surprises.
“Kuldeep is making a strong case for himself. And looking at the way, the English batsmen have struggled against him, we might be tempted to do it,” Kohli said.
Although Test matches would be a different ball game all together, there is no reason why Kuldeep cannot replicate his limited overs performance in the longest form of the game. As it is, he bagged a fifer on debut against Australia and did not seem out of place.
Umesh Yadav has risen through the ranks in the recent times. After injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, he would have to shoulder a lot of responsibility. His pace is right up there and his fitness is commendable.
If he can hold on to his line and length, Umesh can really take the attack to the opposition. Given the dry conditions in England, if the ball reverses, there are very few bowlers who are better exponents of reverse swing than Yadav.
Ishant Sharma is the senior most Indian pacer in terms of the matches played. He has already played in English conditions and has ample experience of how to tinker with his bowling style. He was part of the Indian team on the 2014 England tour and led the charge in India’s iconic victory at Lord’s.
Ishant’s height gives him and inherent advantage which produces awkward bounce. However, he has to rein in on that and try to push the ball further up to give himself the best chance of swinging the delivery. With Ishant being a core component, India embark on their path of creating history in England.