The focus shifts from east to west. India’s bigwigs will lace their boots and strap their pads once more as Test cricket takes centre stage at a time when the Tokyo Olympics enters its climactic crescendo. It is time for broadcasters to grin again as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will grace the television screens for an Indian cricket team after the Sri Lankan sojourn. It is time for India vs England 1st Test match!
The build up to this particular Test series has been unique and rather sombre. The team has been in the English shore for a time that would resemble tours of yesteryear. And yet, it is a function of circumstance, our still pandemic-stricken reality and a WTC final. The latter did not go according to plan and the interval has not been the smoothest either.
Shubman Gill got injured and a need for his replacement despite the mammoth traveling contingent initiated scoffs, if not controversy. Rishabh Pant contracted the dreaded virus and Ben Stokes, worn down by the sinister nature of our Covid-19’s confines took an “indefinite break” from cricket.
But the show must go on and the show starts at Trent Bridge. India will welcome the starting point of the five-match series as it was in this stadium that Virat Kohli’s men won their only game in the 2018 tour. However, key to encore would be team selection – a step that has often become a steep hurdle for the team management given their knack of getting the combination wrong.
Hence, here are the eleven men India should pick for the first Test.
India vs England 1st Test playing 11 – openers
Rohit Sharma is certain to open the batting and it will be only his second match in England at the top of the order. The vice captain of India’s limited overs team will thus have to summon all his experience in order to provide India a solid start.
Partnering Rohit will be either KL Rahul or Abhimanyu Easwaran. Gill’s injury and Mayank Agarwal’s eleventh hour concussion has made this a rather tricky decision for the management. India may have been looking at KL Rahul as a middle order candidate after his century in the warm up game but their hand is likely to be forced now. Easwaran has scored heaps of runs in domestic cricket but if murmurs are to be believed, is not a fancied candidate within the management. Hence, the Bengal captain will not be the candidate as India have been lobbying to fly Prithvi Shaw in.
India vs England 1st Test playing 11 – top order
Cheteshwar Pujara will resume his role as resident repellent at number 3 and much is expected from the Saurashtra batsman. He has flattered to deceive in English conditions and like he did in Australia in 2018, India will need a big series from Pujara if they are to harbour realistic chances of a rare Test series triumph on English soil.
Captain Kohli will bat at number 4. He was the MVP between both sides back in the 2018 tour and remains the most crucial player heading into India vs England 1st Test match in 2021.
Following the captain will be vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. There were fitness concerns, but he will be passed fit to take his place in the team. Rahane has returned underwhelming performances with the bat recently, but Kohli brushed aside any concerns regarding his deputy’s place in the side. And it would also serve as a timely reminder to walk back memory lane to India’s last Test series abroad and it was under Rahane that India famously defeated Australia.
India vs England 1st Test playing 11 – middle order
Number 6 will depend on whether India decide to play four bowlers or five and given India do not possess a seam bowling all-rounder, the management should consider playing a batsman at number 6. India’s pace battery has always delivered over the last three years, and it has been the batsmen, who have disappointed. Thus, the management will be well served to pick a specialist batsman at this slot. It would, in that case, be Hanuma Vihari. KL Rahul may have contested the spot but is now likely open giving Vihari a clean run to be picked if India do opt for the extra batsman.
Rishabh Pant will don the gloves in the India vs England 1st Test as the left-hander has now completely recovered from Covid-19. The wicketkeeper has been a star for India over the last year and with him on the field, there is never a dull moment.
India vs England 1st Test playing 11 – bowlers
R Ashwin will pip Ravindra Jadeja as the lone spinner, despite the latter displaying commendable form with the bat in the warm up game. Ashwin, who did not feature in India’s warm up match, was instead playing for Surrey in county cricket. The off spinner picked up 6-27 against Somerset, where he could be seen bowling with a slightly tweaked action.
Mohammed Shami was India’s most impressive bowler in the WTC final and will be captain Kohli’s primary weapon with the ball. Shami was India’s best, and unluckiest, bowler on the 2018 tour. He benefitted from bowling fuller against New Zealand and if he can replicate the lengths, he will trouble a lot of Englishmen in the India vs England 1st Test.
Ishant Sharma, India’s most experienced bowler, will bat at number 10. The tall fast bowler has bowled the best in his long career over the last two years and his accuracy will be key to India’s chances in the Test series.
Finally, India should pick Mohammed Siraj ahead of Jasprit Bumrah. The latter is a bona fide star for India and has been instrumental in many famous wins but lately, has been far from his best. Meanwhile, Siraj is bowling at his best and in the peak of his powers. He is a natural swing bowler which is an important card to have up one’s sleeve in the English conditions.
India vs England 1st Test playing 11: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj