India has picked a squad of 20 players plus four additional players keeping in mind the length of the tour and the pandemic for their England trip where they will first play New Zealand in the World Test Championship followed by five test series against England.
With the IPL called off indefinitely, the focus of Indian team now shifts to the first World Test Championship finals where New Zealand will be waiting for them in England as they play a two match series with the host before India takes on Kiwis for the WTC finals starting on June 18 in Southampton.
India has been on a roll after an emphatic away series win against Australia despite being blown away for just 36 runs at Adelaide and bouncing back to win the series 2-1 and then beating England 3-1 at home that too after losing the first Test match but coming back to win the last three tests and qualifying for the World Test Championship finals against New Zealand.
This time India has to pass not one but two acid tests in English conditions, where their record in the last three series played there has been very poor with 4-0 whitewash in 2011, 3-1 in 2014 and 4-1 in 2018 against England. The last time India won a series against England was in 2007 under Rahul Dravid‘s captaincy but after that the going has been quite tough for the Indian batsmen who have found the swing and seam conditions difficult to counter.
Mind you, India's last series against the Kiwis was also a 2-0 loss in seam and swinging conditions where Kyle Jamieson had wreaked havoc along with Trent Boult, Tim Southee. They also have to counter the aggressive Neil Wagner along with the guile of swing specialist Colin De Grandhomme.
India's seam attack boasts of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj can be handful too in swinging conditions but India’s biggest strength would be their spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who can be handy on the Southampton track which generally supports spinners. The batting also looks good on paper with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shubhman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari and also Rishabh Pant.
But will their free flowing batsman be able to counter the swing and seam conditions of England? It is going to be a challenge for the Indian team which has been their weakness which they have not been able to master for long now. Most importantly India’s openers will be a concern. Rohit Sharma had a terrific last series against England at home where he was the highest scorer from India but it was with the SG Ball in Indian conditions whereas the Dukes Ball swings much more than the SG ball and Rohit’s record has not been so good to speak about. Moreover, his opening partner Gill struggled against England after a promising series against Australia. So did Cheteshwar Pujara. India will be once again hoping that their captain King Kohli shows the same form as he had shown in the 2018 series scoring almost 593 runs negating the swing of Jimmy Anderson who had the wood over him in the 2014 series. India will also bank on Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane who has a good record in England. But their biggest bet would be on Rishabh Pant who has come out of age in the last two series against Australia and England and has been the impact player who has taken the game away from the opposition.
If the top order Indian batsmen can get through the early part where there is more swing and seam, India can then capitalize with their strong middle order. But history is against India. Can they turn it around this time to fist win the World Test Champions and then beat England at their home ground? Your guess is as good as mine.