The Indian team came out of the practice game against Essex with more questions than answers.
In spite of having a stellar run in Test cricket, the Indian team never bore a settled look over that time. The constant chopping and changing of personnel in the India Test team has left it with an unsettled batting line up.
The Indian team haven’t experimented a lot either. Karun Nair, who scored that memorable 300, hasn’t found a spot in the XI and hasn’t played too much cricket since then. The opening position has been like musical chairs between Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay and Kannanur Lokesh Rahul. Rohit Sharma has been in and out of the XI as well, and his selection in South Africa ahead of Ajinkya Rahane drew a lot of flak.
The only spot which has been constant over the last two years has been the captaincy. The rest of the players have been dropped for one reason or the other over the last couple of years.
The main problem for the Indian captain is that his number three, Cheteshwar Pujara, has been struggling as well. Pujara, who has been in the UK for about three months now, has struggled with the bat. He did not score any runs in county cricket, and his failure in the practice match raises doubts on his inclusion in the XI.
Pujara’s struggles outside Subcontinent are well documented. He averages 27.3 in 35 innings with just one hundred and four fifties. I feel that time is running out for the Indian number three. He bats for a long time with little output, and the Indian team, which plays only five specialist batsmen, cannot afford such a player in the XI.
India came to England with an option of playing all three openers in the XI, which received a huge jolt, with Shikhar Dhawan getting a pair in the practice game. Dhawan also had an indifferent limited-overs leg of the tour. Murali Vijay and KL Rahul were among the runs in the practice game, which means that both of them will be part of the XI. Karun Nair, who is another batsman in the squad, did not get many runs with the chance he got to bat.
India also has two wicketkeepers in the squad who both look in great form. Dinesh Karthik scored 82 and Rishabh Pant, who came at the end of the innings, scored an unbeaten 34. There is also a possibility of playing both the keepers considering Dinesh Karthik is an excellent fielder as well. Karthik, who has opened in the past in England, may also be considered for the number three spot, with Rishabh Pant playing at number six
The English team, though, will be quietly confident. Their bowling attack will be extremely tough to negotiate in home conditions. The Indian think tank still have a lot of tough calls to make.
The advantage for the hosts is that Joe Root and Alastair Cook both look in tremendous form. Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler have been in brilliant form throughout the year. Moeen Ali’s return gives them the much-needed boost lower down the order along with Ben Stokes.
The English team looks the more settled of the two. The Indian team’s lack of interest and intent in the practice game did not help matters as well. India could have really benefitted from an additional day of batting in the game against Essex.
With just over a day to go for the first Test to begin, the Indian camp has some serious selection headaches and at the moment the English team look the firm favourites to win the series.
The Aussies got off to the best possible start against England with Starc’s first-ball wicket – just the fourth dismissal in Ashes history to begin a Test match. The left-arm quick ended up with first-innings figures of 2/35 but who called that instantly-iconic moment best?
The Ashes series is about to commence, and there is no doubt that if England are to be extremely competitive, their batsman will need to score runs against one of the best bowling attacks in the world.