India captain Virat Kohli kept the suspense alive on who would be Rohit Sharma’s opening partner for the first Test, beginning on Wednesday. While a call on the playing XI will be taken on the match day morning, Kohli stressed that his team is ready to roar against England in the five-match series.
“We are definitely much better prepared than we have in the past. The (COVID) situation has allowed us to get acclimatised and get used to the weather first, because it can change drastically quite quickly here,” Kohli said from Nottingham on Tuesday.
“At the same time playing under different changes in conditions -- in terms of the weather, whether it is overcast or sunny, how the pitch behaves, how the ball travels, how much it swings in the air -- all those things are going to add to our experience with what the team already possess lot of having played in England before.”
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India will also enter the series with a potential void created by the absence of a pace-bowling all-rounder. While Hardik Pandya, who had an excellent outing in 2018, has been sidelined from Test cricket due to a chronic back injury, the only option India has is Shardul Thakur.
The Mumbai pacer proved his worth during the miraculous comeback in Brisbane in January to hand India the series win in Australia. Kohli admitted that Thakur is a possible option for the position.
“He is already a multi-dimensional cricketer and it is all about gaining more and more confidence with performances like Brisbane. Someone like him always brings a lot of balance to the Test team or any other aspect of the game,” Kohli said. “Shardul is a huge prospect for us and one who is going to be very important for us not just in this series but going forward.”
Ever since the WTC final got over, there has been a whisper campaign against Cheteshwar Pujara’s ability and the lack of faith from the team management. Kohli, however, said neither Pujara nor the team have any doubts over Pujara’s capability.
“A player of his calibre should be left alone and the responsibility is with the individual to figure out what are the drawbacks in his game that he needs to work on,” Kohli said. “I can from the outside say that the criticism is unnecessary but I know for a fact that Pujara does not care. Criticism is only as relevant as you want it to be.”
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Despite the absence of Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, veteran pacers James Anderson and Stuart Broad will pose severe challenges for India’s batsmen.
“We have studied enough, so if you have knowledge you can answer the question and turn it around. An answer completes the question. If you ignore the question, your exam workload piles on and the exam gets difficult,” Kohli said.
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Kohli also dead-batted a specific query about his plans to tackle Anderson with: “I’ll just bat.”
India will be hoping he does the same for the next six weeks.