About the Match
Along with the ongoing South Africa's tour of Australia, this England tour of India is one of the most awaited battles of the year for the cricket fans. Beginning on November 9, with the first test to be played at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, this series is seen as a revenge series for Indian fans. England, on the other hand, will like to continue from where they left on the last tour. This cricket rivalry dates back to 2011 when England thrashed the visiting Indian team 4-0. In 2012 as well, the series' result was no different as touring English side defeated India 3-1 despite losing the first test. The Indian team is riding high on confidence after beating West Indies and the Kiwis. England, on the contrary, failed to beat Bangladesh and Pakistan on their previous two tours. However, India must be wary of England who has the history of bouncing back strongly, especially in India. We are still a couple of days away from the match-day and things are already beginning to build up to what promises to be a mouth-watering encounter.
The Indian selectors have made some interesting choices in picking up the squad for the first two games. Karun Nair and Hardik Pandya have been included in the side, but it will be a tough call for the skipper whether and who to include in the playing eleven. While Gautam Gambhir seems to be a good replacement for Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma's absence might be felt at number six.
The bowling department looks strong with Ashwin and Jadeja back into the side after being rested for ODI series against the Kiwis. Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami are the two fast bowlers most likely to be in the final eleven. Indian batsmen have been doing pretty well with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane racking up tons consistently. Indian camp would be pretty happy with the way Pujara batted in the series against New Zealand.
Statistically, things aren't pretty bright for Indians. Since 2011, the teams have locked horns 13 occasions and India have been on top in only two of them while England has stamped its authority in nine. Looking at the form Indian's are in and the momentum they're carrying, it is unlikely that these stats will have any impact on proceedings. However, things can get interesting, if Indians find themselves in a situation similar to that of 2012.
Looking at the way Gary Ballance gifted his wicket to off-spinner in the previous two tests, Jos Buttler might feature in playing eleven. Joe Root, who is on the charts of one of the best young players in the world, along with Alastair Cook form the backbone of English batting lineup. They have Ben Duckett, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali who can chip in and score big as well.
England could play two specialist spinners considering Woakes' and Stokes' all-round abilities and pitch. If not, we might see Ansari being picked ahead of Gareth Batty due to the fact that Indians have plenty of righties in their batting order. The inclusion of Jos Buttler would solve the England's problem of too many lefties in the top order which against quality off-spinners can be dangerous, as it was in Bangladesh.
England has the numbers on their side, but their form isn't as good. They lost to Bangladesh recently and their tour against Pakistan resulted only in a draw. All in all, this England doesn't look a team as strong as England of 2011 or 2012. However, they are still very much capable with some young and extremely talented players which India must be wary of.
England has been very successful in the longest format of the game whenever they've toured India in the last six years. India is still growing under the new leadership of Virat Kohli and has won consistently and taken the numero uno position in ICC Test rankings. England would face trial by spin, and if they are able to negotiate that successfully, Indians can have a hard time in the field. However, looking at the way things have gone recently, that is pretty unlikely to happen. Considering the form hosts are in, and England's visible troubles against quality spin bowling, Indians are firm favorites to win the first test at Rajkot.