India Start As Heavy Betting Favorites In Test Series Against England
The Indian test team is coming off one of the best overseas test series victories in the game’s history. India had a long tour of Australia and showed tremendous grit and determination in the four-test series, which they ended up winning 2-1. The scorecard does not tell the whole story because India played without half of their main test squad and still won.
Four Test Series Against England
India doesn’t have much time to rest on their laurels as they are set to play a four-match test series against England. The BCCI has considered the COVID-19 situation in India and has restricted the four match test series to just two venues, so it is easier to create and maintain a bio-bubble.
The first two test matches will occur in Chennai, while the final two test matches will shift to Ahmedabad. The third test at Ahmedabad will be a D/N test match – the second-ever D/N test held in India, while the fourth test will be normal.
The first test will take place from Feb 5-9; the second test will run from Feb 13-17. The third test match will be held from Feb 24/28, and the fourth and final test will take place from March 4-8.
The first two tests in Chennai should be okay as the weather conditions in Chennai are not expected to be super-hot as summer will start in early March. However, the final two tests in Ahmedabad could be tough on the visitors as things should heat both on and off the pitch.
India Playing At Almost Full Strength
The Indian test team was devastated by injuries on the tour to Australia and the absence of skipper Virat Kohli. However, most of the injured players have recovered, and Kohli is back to lead India.
J Bumrah, R Ashwin, and KL Rahul, all injured in Australia, are back in the squad. The squad is also strengthened by Ishant Sharma and H Pandya’s return, who are eager to get back into test cricket mode. Pandya’s return to the squad will bring balance as India can now play four bowlers, five batsmen, one-all-rounder, and one wicket-keeper batsman.
R Jadeja and M Shami have still not recovered from injury and could most likely miss out on the England series. The playing XI for the first test is not hard to pick. We would go with R Sharma, S Gill, C Pujara, V Kohli, A Rahane, H Pandya, R Pant, R Ashwin, K Yadav or A Patel, I Sharma and J Bumrah.
India Squad For First Two Tests
Virat Kohli (captain), A Rahane (vice-captain), R Sharma, S Gill, M Agarwal, C Pujara, KL Rahul, H Pandya, R Pant, W Saha, A Patel, R Ashwin, K Yadav, J Bumrah, M Siraj, I Sharma, S Thakur, W Sundar.
The BCCI has also named four standby players for the first two tests. S Nadeem, R Chahar, S Bharat, and A Easwaran.
England Should Relish Underdog Tag
England comes in as betting underdogs and will be very aware of how strong this India team is, especially after their massive series win in Australia. The one good thing for this England team is that they are currently playing a test series in Sri Lanka and will be more adjusted to sub-continent conditions.
However, the Sri Lankan cricket team cannot be compared to the Indian team, and England will know that. England will have to adopt a similar mindset and strategy that India did in Australia and take it one test at a time.
England should relish the underdog tag as it puts pressure on them and places it on the Indian team as Indian fans have even bigger expectations. One of the main advantages that India has playing at home is the home crowd support. However, since all four test matches will take place in empty stadiums, this home crowd advantage will not be there.
England has made some interesting selections for the first two tests, blending in both experience and youth. James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jos Butler’s experience will play a big role in mentoring the younger players who have very little idea of what it’s like to play against India in India.
England Squad For First Two Tests
Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Jos Butler, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Olly Stone, Ben Foakes, Jack Leach, Dan Lawrence, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Rory Burns, Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali and Dom Bess.
The standby players are Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson, James Bracey, Saqib Mahmood, Ollie Robinson, and Amar Virdi.