India aims to start English summer on positive note

Virat Kohli has decisions to make ahead of Wednesday's first Test and they are not easy ones.

England captain Joe Root and his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli hold the series trophy at Edgbaston ahead of the first Test.   -  Getty Images

Much has changed since India and England last met in a Test match at Edgbaston.

It was back in the summer of 2011, when Alastair Cook batted for over 12 hours to grind out a 294 that flattened the visiting side and took England to number one in the ICC rankings.

It was yet another low point in a painful tour for a beleaguered Indian team. Seven years on, India returns to the venue top of the rankings, full of the belief that the outcome will be nothing like the same.

Virat Kohli has decisions to make ahead of Wednesday's first Test and they are not easy ones.

Read: Difficult to leave Pujara out of the XI says Lalchand Rajput

Shikhar Dhawan lasted a grand total of four balls in the tour game at Essex. He has a poor record in England, and increasingly gives the impression that he is a batsman best suited for the shortest format.

Kohli is a fan of the left-right hand batting combination – a reason he cited for Dhawan's selection for the first Test in South Africa in January – but that can no longer be enough to justify his presence.

Also read: 'More' on glovesmen in English conditions

K.L. Rahul is India's best choice to open alongside Murali Vijay in these conditions, even if the team management has described him as the 'third opener'.

Rahul was used at number six at Chelmsford last week, which is an option if the team wants to field an extra batsman.

Kohli, for his part, needs to make a statement in the first Test of a marquee series - a big score will put the rest of the dressing room at ease.

Interesting Facts

  • India played its first ever Test Match against England in 1932 at Lord's, London
  • It has been 11 years since India won a test series in England, after winning the last one in 2007.
  • In 1971, India achieved its first overseas test win, as well as series win in England (1-0) under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar.
  • In 1986, during the first Test at Lord's, Dilip Vengsarkar achieved a unique feat by becoming the first and so far the only - overseas batsman to score three centuries at Lord's.
  • India has won 3 test series in total out of the 17 played against England in England from 1932 to 2017
  • The India tour of England in 2007 was a memorable one for Anil Kumble as he managed to get his maiden test ton in his 118th Test match for India. Kumble scored an astonishing 110 without losing his wicket.
  • A potential star, Rishabh Pant earned his maiden Test call-up and was announced in the 18-member squad for the first three test matches against England in 2018.
  • Pant looks like a promising call towards the Test team, he was selected in the team after his brilliant stints in ODI matches.

The captain has also to ponder over his bowling combination. Rain has brought to an end what they were calling the hottest spell in the United Kingdom for 42 years, and the perception locally is that the surface will behave much like it did during the last two Tests here - spin did not play a great role then.

England named its XI on the eve of the match, with all-rounder Sam Curran earning a spot and fielding just one spinner in Adil Rashid, a selection that suggests that Joe Root does not expect a dry turner.

It remains to be seen what India will do. In his team selection, Kohli trusts what he calls 'gut feel'. He could be tempted to include Kuldeep Yadav, but if India does opt to deploy a single spinner, it would be difficult to look beyond R. Ashwin.

Also read: Focus on power game can make Root effective in Tests, says coach

Umesh Yadav has perhaps bowled himself into contention with his performance against Essex last week, when he took four for 35 from 18 overs.

Ishant Sharma offers control and is perhaps the one Indian seamer capable of bowling 'dry'. It is critical that India's pace bowlers stay disciplined not just in short bursts but throughout the Test match.

The absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, who showed great improvement in a short span in South Africa, is a blow.

For all of India's supposed weakness overseas, England is a team in flux itself, having lost six of its last nine Tests, and none to opposition that might be construed as fearsome.

It creates a mouthwatering prospect of a marathon prize-fight between two proud but vulnerable teams this summer.

The teams:

England: Joe Root (capt.), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Sam Curran, Keaton Jennings, Dawid Malan, Jamie Porter, Adil Rashid, and Ben Stokes.

India: Virat Kohli (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, and Shardul Thakur.

Match officials:

On-field umpires: Aleem Dar, Chris Gaffaney; Match referee: Jeff Crowe; Third umpire: Marais Erasmus; Fourth umpire: Tim Robinson.