Team India start favourites
Their morale high after back-to-back triumphs over West Indies and New Zealand, World No.1 India would be odds-on favourites when they take on England in what is expected to be a gruelling five-Test series starting on Wednesday.
Rajkot: Their morale high after back-to-back triumphs over West Indies and New Zealand, World No.1 India would be odds-on favourites when they take on England in what is expected to be a gruelling five-Test series starting on Wednesday.
The series will be the first five-match affair on Indian soil in three decades and the opening clash will also mark the debut of Rajkot as a Test venue. It promises to be an engrossing contest between the world No.1 ranked India and the team that last beat them at home four years ago.
In 2012, England came back from a game down to turn the tables on India and post a 2-1 win in a four-game rubber. Superior spin bowling by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, both of whom are no longer part of the squad, was a major factor in that English triumph.
Also some excellent batting by current skipper Alastair Cook and the controversial Kevin Pietersen, who is no longer a part of England's scheme of things, were the highlights for England. The current Indian team led by Virat Kohli, who was a member of the team that was vanquished four years ago.
This time around, however, England have come into the series after a first-ever shock defeat in a Test match at the hands of Bangladesh in Dhaka to draw the two-match rubber 1-1. The tourists have also not played any warm-up game after landing in India a week ago. Add to that, their highest Test wicket-taker James Anderson is not available for at least the opening skirmish as he is yet to return to complete fitness from a shoulder injury.
Both Cook and all-rounder Stuart Broad, who is to play his 100th Test, have talked about England being the clear "underdogs" going into the rubber, especially against an Indian side being led in aggressive style by Kohli.
This would also be the first Test series in India where the Decision Review System (DRS), which the BCCI has consistently opposed, will be used. Kohli will have with him the likes of Rahane and the likes of Murali Vijay, the recalled Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara, the team's leading scorer against New Zealand, who will be playing at his home town here.
Because of the injury sustained by Rohit in the one-day series against New Zealand, either Karnataka batsman Karun Nair or Baroda all-rounder Hardik Pandya appear set to make a Test debut. India have the clear edge in spin in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja while England will sorely miss their pace spearhead James Anderson.
Squads (from): India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice Captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (Wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav; England: Alastair Cook (Captain), Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Gareth Batty, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn, Haseeb Hameed, Moeen Ali, Zafar Ansari, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.