The last time India toured England in 2018, the Virat Kohli-led side suffered a 1-4 defeat in the Test series. Things were quite similar in the previous tours of 2011 and 2014 as well where the touring side suffered heavy defeats.
But the Indian team will be hoping for a change in fortune when it begins the five-match Test series against Joe Root’s side in Nottingham on Wednesday (August 4).
This series will also mark the beginning of the second cycle of the ICC World Test Championship and both teams will be hoping to start the campaign on a winning note.
Even though India hasn’t won a Test series in England since 2007, the team’s astounding success in Australia earlier this year proved that it has the ability to play fearless cricket and win series abroad. And in this series, the ‘lions at home’ will be hoping to shrug off the ‘lambs abroad’ tag and put up an impressive show.
However, batting appears to be an area of concern. With Ajinkya Rahane recovering from an injury and Cheteshwar Pujara, not in the best of forms, a lot will depend on captain Kohli. But then, in the last eight Tests, the Indian captain has scored only 345 runs at an average of 24.64, and it would be interesting to see how he tackles the England bowlers and the conditions.
In the World Test Championship final, the way Kyle Jamieson nipped the ball off the seam to him, could be an indication of what awaits Kohli in the series against England.
The Indian team has been in England for nearly two months now and are quite accustomed to the conditions, so that could be of some help.
Even England’s batting line-up was exposed during the series defeat against New Zealand in June, and ahead of the crucial Tests against India, the home team, too, has plenty to ponder.
Root has an impressive Test average of 48.68, and the onus will be on him to get the ball rolling, especially in the absence of the team’s star all-rounder Ben Stokes.
The Stokes factor
England suffered a blow when Stokes pulled out of the series and decided to take an indefinite break from all forms of cricket to ‘prioritise his mental well-being’. A genuine match-winner, Stokes scored 4,631 runs in 71 Tests, but more than the figures, his all-round abilities have always been a big boost for England. With him not being around, England will certainly find itself in a spot.
Over a period of 42 days, there will be five Tests and that’s why the fast bowlers need to manage their workloads. With a packed international calendar, the teams will have to ensure that the bowlers are not overworked.
India has a strong pace battery with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah – who shared 32 wickets between them in 2018 – around, along with Mohammed Shami. There is also offie Ravichandran Ashwin. For England, the focus will be on James Anderson and Stuart Broad as its seam options have slackened with the loss of Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes to injuries.
INDIA squad: 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, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Suryakumar Yadav (yet to join), Prithvi Shaw (yet to join)
Standby players: Prasidh Krishna, Arzan Nagwaswalla
England squad: 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