Both India and England have problems aplenty concerning the form and injuries to their key player.
Edgbaston has been a fortress for England, where series begins, and Trent Bridge holds fond memories for them, too, especially against India.
India has their task cut out as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the leader of the attack, is ruled out of first three tests. To add insult to the injury, Jasprit Bumrah is wounded too. That’s the biggest chink in the Indian armory.
Mohammad Shami’s been away from cricket for a while, getting into the groves should take some workout.
In experienced Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, India have bowlers who can clock 90 mph and do well.
Shradul Thakur is new to the international cricket, and being raw, he will get right in few spells but give away loose deliveries in another period.
Indian spin departments look healthy with experienced Ravis (Ashwin, Jadeja), and Kuldeep Yadav.
Hardik Pandya can bowl 6-7 good overs & do a decent job as a batsman in Asia. However, as a third seamer and batsman overseas, he has a long way to go.
India should go in with 5 bowlers including Ashwin the all-rounder, who is a better bet overall than Pandya. England has four left-handers – Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes – in their top six at Edgbaston, which helps both Ashwin and Kuldeep given their stock delivery turns away from left-handed batsmen.
Apart from Joe Root, and Jos Butler to an extent the other nine men are yet to prove their mettle against Kuldeep wrong ’un.
India also shouldn’t play half-fit players in Tests, which are a five-day grind, packed in 6 weeks. The mistake of playing Bhuvi in the third ODI has aggravated his injury and India wouldn’t want another such case.
For England James Anderson and Stuart Broad stand out. Both have played more than 100 Tests together and taken 950 wickets between them.
James Anderson was the player of the series when two sides met in 2014, he took 25 wickets at 20.60, dismissing Kohli 4 times. If the weather remains as hot as it’s now, it might lessen his threaten.
However, England’s leader of pace attack is a willy practitioner, he will be up for the challenge. His performance in tough Ashes tour that included 17 wickets at 28 shows Jimmy is far from done.
Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara are under the pump given their poor outing overseas. Virat Kohli is a too good a player to be replicating horror show of 2014. He should have excellent support from Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay.
Dinesh Karthik had an excellent warm-up match with the bat. However, his keeping skills are more of importance than his extra 10-20 runs with the bat.
India in South Africa, played Parthiv Patel, for his batting over Saha in the second test. It proved fatal as Parthiv dropped simple catches that cost them the series.
Another area of concern is slip catching.
In 2017, as given in Sportswallah, Virat Kohli dropped most catches-7 while taking only 10 catches. Not to surprise, most of those drops are in the slip cordon. To look on India as a catching unit in they took 117 catches but dropped 31 catches (Drop %-21). West Indies(22), Bangladesh(29%) are only ahead of India.
For England’s batting, the problem starts at the top with Alastair Cook, struggling to find a regular partner, 14 men have been tried since former England captain Andrew Strauss retired. Keaton Jennings is making a comeback after being dropped. Joe Root at No.3 is the right move.
The bowling lineup of India, historically known, to give away runs to out of form batsman and make life easier for debutants, should help England. Alastair Cook having scored a century on debut against India in Nagpur in 2006, and years later in 2014, reviving his test career after 95 at Southampton is the best example.
Dawid Malan could be the benefactor of India’s bowling. Jonny Bairstow and Jos Butler are in the form of their life and can be destructive at the back end.
Considering the hottest summers in the UK, Adil Rashid should be in the game. If pacers keep things tight, Indians will go spinner and therein lies his chances.
Ben Stokes has looked a pale shadow of himself after being suspended for Bristol brawl, and that’s looks to be playing on his mind to keep the aggression in check, but gives it all attitude & aggression made him the player Stokes is.
The team management needs to give him a pep talk and back him to be himself. England needs him firing all cylinder. Playing against the Asian giant, which is vulnerable to pace should help Stoksey.
For India, Virat run’s will be decisive, and if he carries on, India is in the game big time. However, to win a test, it’s got to be a team effort.
Indian players will be tested mentally and physically in the long series. England crowd and media is known to be the harshest critics, and won’t make life easy for an underperforming Indian player. Mitch Johnson is the best example, in 2009-10, England tour went awry, thanks to the backlash he received from all quarters alike.
One thing for sure, any Indian players who perform will prolong his career, and performances in England remain in the light for a long time. Ajit Agarkar hundred at Lord’s is still memorable for Indian fan’s, and so is Sanjay Bangar 68 on a green top at Nottingham.
Virat Kohli and troops fight will keep India in the hunt. However, at home the duo of James Anderson-Stuart Broad and losing momentum after the ODI series put India on the backfoot.
A draw look’s best possible result for India.
One gamble, if the pitch is flat, should be the inclusion of Rishabh Pant. Pant has shown the ability to tear apart any bowling line-up in his brief career. If Pant does well, India will have a superstar for the next ten years.