New Delhi [India], August 3 (ANI): Virat Kohli might be India's most successful Test captain, but he is yet to taste success in England and 2021 might just be his year as India start favourites heading into the Test series against Joe Root's men.
India and England will be locking horns in five Tests and this series marks the start of the second World Test Championship (WTC) cycle. However, ahead of the first Test, beginning on Wednesday, the Kohli-led side has some tough calls to make.
The opening combination has become a talking point after Shubman Gill got ruled out of the tour, and then Mayank Agarwal suffered a concussion on Monday. Now heading into the Trent Bridge Test, it is not known who will combine along with Rohit Sharma at the top.
Cricket pundits and fans want KL Rahul to open alongside Rohit, but it is not as simple as it seems. Earlier, the team management made it public that they are considering Rahul for the middle-order slot. If Rahul does not open, then India has three other options -- Hanuma Vihari, Abhimanyu Easwaran, and the third wild punt is to send Cheteshwar Pujara out to open.
Of all the options, opening with Rahul seems the most logical one as Easwaran last played a domestic four-day game in early 2020. Pujara is also not at his best, so sending him out to open could look a bit harsh. Talking about Vihari, the right-handed batsman was not given a chance in the WTC final, so picking him as an opener will raise a few eyebrows.
However, if Vihari is indeed given a chance, then India will have the luxury of playing Shardul Thakur as an all-rounder. Vihari can roll his arm over so he can play second-fiddle to either Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja.
Heading into the series, the spotlight will be on Pujara as his technique was exposed in the WTC final, and the batsman has not looked his old self for a long time. The reluctance to dispatch bad balls for boundaries is there for everyone to see, and him going into his shell, often ends up creating pressure on Pujara's partners.
Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli had injury scares before the first Test, but the duo is completely fit to go for the first Test. Kohli is yet to score a ton since November 2019, but it is not like, the skipper has been woefully out of form, and it is just a matter of time before he gets that three-figure mark.
Coming to the bowling department, it would be interesting to see whether the management goes in with the same three pacers that played the WTC final -- Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah -- or whether there is a place for the young and talented Mohammed Siraj.
When one considers England, it is hard to look past their fragile batting line-up and this Indian bowling attack is more than capable of running through this Root-led lineup. Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley might have scored runs in patches, but their technique leaves a lot to be desired.
England will also be without the services of Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, and with these two-star players missing, it would be an opportunity lost if Kohli and boys are not able to defeat the Three Lions.
Squad: India: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (Captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Md. Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav.
England: Joe Root (c), Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Sam Curran, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Craig Overton. (ANI)