India have their task cut out when they face England in the first Test match against England in the high profile Test series starting on Wednesday.
If the injury to Shubhman Gill was a big blow last month, then Team India got a bigger blow with the latest one to Mayank Agarwal, when he was hit on the head by Mohammed Siraj in the nets, puts India’s thinktank in a dilemma as to who would now partner Rohit Sharma for the opening position. India has Abhimanyu Easwaran as a back-up opener but he has very little experience and India might have to go back to KL Rahul - who last played a Test match for India in 2018.
In 2018, India started as favorites but could not seize key moments in that series. The scoreline read 4-1, but the series was much closer than the scoreline suggested.
This year too, India looks a more experienced side compared to England but will their experienced batsman come to the party? Their senior players like Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane all averaged below 30 since the start of 2020 and it would be a matter of concern as if they don’t perform well in the swinging conditions of England, India has a long tail in Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami - who hardly contribute with the bat.
The reason why England won the 2018 series was that England had Sam Curran and Ben Stokes the allrounders who contributed with the bat and bailed England out when in trouble. Can India’s allrounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin do the same for Team India?
Moreover, the evolution of Rishabh Pant as a batsman after the Australian series should give India the boost as he can singlehandedly take the game away from England as Adam Gilchrist used to do for team Australia.
India has the bowlers to match England but will their batsman score enough runs for their bowlers to compete is the key issue. Bowlers win you matches but they need the support of their prime batsmen. Can Kohli and his team pass this acid test? Only time will tell but this is India’s golden chance to get past this inexperienced side.
India are generally poor starters for their overseas tours but this time around, they have already had one loss in the World Test Championship finals. Can they start the first Test against England with lessons learnt from that WTC finals?
- Cricket enthusiast and businessman Anis Sajan is the Vice Chairman of Danube Group