Under normal circumstances, by the time the fifth Test of a close series between two teams come around, an air of familiarity envelopes everyone including followers of both the teams. However, the winds of changes have blown so hard since fifth Test of 2021 season at Old Trafford was called off due to Covid-19 cases in the India camp and pushed to July 1 2022 in Edgbaston, that there is very little that is familiar. Both India and England have a new captain and a new coach.
England are in a smashing form, which has seen them clean sweep New Zealand 3-0 in the recent Test series at home. However, they were having a tough time before that, winning one only one match in the ICC Test Championship. They have now come out of the dark phase and beaten the defending champions New Zealand with the likes of Johnny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes leading from the front. Backing them is the new coach, Brendon McCullum, who has changed the style of England Test cricket.
Beating a team like New Zealand is not an easy task given that they have one of the best bowling units in Tests with the likes of Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner.
It should not be forgotten that India, in the past few years, have performed brilliantly under Virat Kohli’s captaincy. Yes, Kohli is no longer the captain and unfortunately, Rohit Sharma, who is his replacement, isn’t available due to testing positive for Covid-19. Team India does have certain setbacks with the absence of Rohit and KL Rahul.
Remarkable show in all three formats
Even though England have won the New Zealand series 3-0, I am backing India as the team has performed well in the past few years both at home and away. Indian bowling too has some potent led by Jasprit Bumrah, who has been remarkable with his performances in all three formats. Then we have Mohammed Shami, who has done well during all the matches in English conditions, and Mohammed Siraj is another strong performer.
The pacer played a key role in giving India the 2-1 lead in the series. There is a high probability that India will not play Ravichandran Ashwin and will stick with Ravindra Jadeja along with Shardul Thakur, who has been India’s lucky charm by taking crucial wickets. Another player who stands a chance to be in the starting 11 for team India is Umesh Yadav, who has done well for India in Test in away conditions.
With Rohit and Rahul not being available for the games is going to be a challenge for India to form a batting line-up. Despite not being able to score well in the previous Tests, I feel it’s the right time for Virat Kohli to step up and lead from the front since the burden of captaincy is off his shoulders now and he has always done well in English conditions.
Plenty of confidence
The main man for me in India’s batting is Cheteshwar Pujara, who has had an amazing County season. Pujara hit four centuries, including two double centuries for Sussex in Division Two County Championships to force his way back into the Indian team. And I feel that it will hold him in good stead in this one off Test. Though Pujara has not been at his best in international conditions in the past two years, he will be coming with a lot of confidence.
In my opinion, another trump card that India should use is Hanuma Vihari as he is the perfect man to step up in this type of conditions as he has the temperament. It is not easy to play in the English conditions with the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and the new pacer Matthew Potts.
My predicted 11 for this Test is: Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
It will be a Test of character for team India, but as they are leading the series 2-1 would definitely want to get the better of England, despite the latter’s victorious performance against New Zealand.