England and India will be locking horns in the much-anticipated Test series which kicks off at Edgbaston from August 1. On their previous tour in 2014, led by MS Dhoni, India were hammered in the four-match Test series which the home side ended up winning 3-1. But now being the No 1 ranked Test side in the world, India are looking to make a statement on the British shores whereas England will be aiming to dominate India as they have done previously.
Ahead of one of the most exciting series, here is a look at some of the major talking points of the series:
Since June 2016, India have used nine opening partnerships in Test cricket. For the current tour, selectors have picked three openers in Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Dhawan’s overseas record hasn’t been great especially when it comes to red-ball cricket, but his aggressive style of play is something which attracts Kohli as the other batsmen in the line-up – Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara – play in similar styles. The trio of Dhawan, Vijay, and Pujara is unlikely to feature in the playing XI until and unless India drop Pujara and slot Rahul at No 3.
On India’s tour of England in 2014, Virat Kohli had a poor run of form as his technique was unpicked by a bunch of quality bowlers in conducive conditions for swing bowling. By the end of the series, Kohli was averaging 13.40. There were a couple of issues at that point in time. His judgement of what to play and what to leave was blurred. Also, Kohli’s tendency to point his front foot straight down the wicket had him in tatters. Kohli was aligning himself to hit the ball through mid-wicket (by opening himself up). But because the ball swung away late from him, by the point it reached him, it was well outside his eye-line, and all he ended up doing was reaching it with his hands.
He is more sideways now and takes a decent stride forward but being closed off, in turn, leads to being circumspect against straighter balls. England attack can probably take a leaf out of Philander’s set-up of the Indian skipper at Cape Town by dragging him across his crease and then slip in the odd nip-backer. Virat has to be careful by not ‘premeditating’. Otherwise he could be in danger.
This is a big blow for the visitors as both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are different in terms of skill. Kumar can swing the ball both ways with the new ball which keeps the batsmen guessing whereas Bumrah is extremely hard to pick if anyone hasn’t faced him before. In the last two years, Kumar has 34 wickets in 9 matches at an average of 18.50, whereas Bumrah’s ability to skid the ball off the deck had South Africans in a spot of bother. The likes of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami are in the mix, whereas it will be interesting to see how much of a role spin plays.
Following an excellent run in white-ball cricket, Adil Rashid was shockingly called up to the Test side by selector Ed Smith and the team management. Rashid had given up playing four-day cricket for his county Yorkshire to focus on limited-overs cricket solely. The decision was criticised by ex-England players including Nasser Hussain, who termed it as a “kick in the teeth of County cricket”. Rashid has starred in England’s one-day series wins over Australia and India, taking 20 wickets at an average of 23.95 but it remains to be seen whether he can live up to the expectations of the selectors in the longest format.
Despite outplaying Pakistan at Headingley earlier this year, question marks have remained on the collapse-prone English batting lineup. There is an element of inexperience in England’s batting lineup which can give the opposition a chance to make inroads. The onus will be on the duo of Alastair Cook and Joe Root to stay out in the middle as long as possible and accumulate runs to put pressure on the opposition. England’s all-time leading run-scorer in Test cricket, Cook, recently scored 180 for England Lions against India A which is a positive sign given his poor run of form in the last year or so. There is visible improvement in Cook’s weight transfer, and his back foot in his trigger movements (which was previously going straight back) is now going across which prevents him from playing inside the line of the ball and nick off. India will be missing the services of Kumar and Bumrah, but at this level, there is no room for complacency.