The Indian team’s recollection of the England Test series last time isn’t the fondest. We saw some of the biggest names on paper crumbling in front of seasoned James Anderson and Stuart Broad under seeming and swinging conditions. Although, amidst the prevailing heat wave searing the English atmosphere, it seems the best chance for the world No.1 side to come out on top and win the series.
But don’t let the granola vibes fool you for the Virat Kohli-led side might have some chinks in their armour with the bowling spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar missing out of the Test series and doubts over Jasprit Bumrah’s availability. A lot will depend on the backup quicks—Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami—going in for the grueling series, starting form 1 August in Birmingham.
However, former Indian opener Lalchand Rajput thinks the bowlers selected for the series are the “best” in the country. “If you look at their records they have done exceptionally well. Shami has been doing well in the last one year, so as Ishant Sharma. Umesh Yadav has been in and out of the team as Bumrah and Bhuvi plays very often. Definitely, we will miss both of them as they are your frontline bowlers with different styles but it gives three bowlers a chance to prove themselves.”
There has been a lot of talk about Kuldeep Yadav’s inclusion in the team, especially after his exceptional performance in the T20 and ODI series. The only time we saw England dominating the match was when they were able to successfully negate the chinaman in the second and the third ODI match. Asked if India should go with their regular Test spinners—Ashwin and Jadeja—or believe in Kuldeep’s ability once again, Rajput said, “The team should go with the regular spinners for first few Tests and then go for Kuldeep.”
The middle order muddle has been a headache for the Indian side and the ODI series was a testimony to the fact of how much the team depends on its opening trio of Shikhar, Rohit and Virat. Likes of Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha has long been vouching for Dhoni’s place post his retirement but a promising Rishabh Pant brings versatility to the table with his explosive batting.
Having recognised by many as the long-standing replacement of Dhoni, it has been a tall order for Pant due to the likes of Karthik, Patel and Saha. However, for all his brilliance at home, Pant will be up against a quality bowling attack in seeming conditions unlike India where the wickets aren’t conducive to fast bowling.
Rajput says, “Dinesh Kartik should be given the opportunity as he was the first choice after Saha got injured. Pant has been doing well this season but Kartik also had a fantastic domestic season this year.”
Touted as the best all-round batsman Kohli will have a lot to prove in England where he miserably failed last time but it will be “difficult for the English bowlers to stop him unless they get him out early before he is set,” he said, adding that Kohli is four years more matured than last time.
“If he is set he is going to go for big scores as he has to prove the Englishmen that he is the best batsmen in the world right now,” Rajput said. While Ajinkya Rahane is the “best equipped” Test player, “Pujara is a very determined player who doesn’t give his wicket easily. He just likes to bat on and on.”
“Form is temporary, class is permanent and Virat is a class player and in good touch while Ajinkya and Cheteshwar Pujara are the mainstay of Indian batting. It is going to be a tough series in English conditions,” former left arm fast bowler Karsan Ghavri said, adding that Kuldeep is an “important part of the team.”
According to Padmakar Shivalkar, former Indian first class cricketer who spent over 20 years playing for Mumbai and is the team’s highest wicket taker of all time, the current Indian team is the best side in the world.
“They have the capability to beat the best. I think the current crop of fast bowlers will do well in the upcoming series. In the spin department, I would like to see a new combination of Kuldeep and Ashwin. Jadeja for me is best suited for the limited overs format. Onus will also be on Ishant since he is the most senior bowler. A lot will depend on how he bowls against the English players,” he said.