Kohli’s captaincy in focus as India take on England in 5-match Test series
- India will England in the first Test at the Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Wednesday
- India have a selection dilemma, with KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw and Abhimanyu Easwaran in contention for the opening slot
- India have lost 11 of the last 14 Tests they played in England
Skipper Virat Kohli and his decisions will be under the spotlight as India take on England in the first of the five-match Test series at the Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Wednesday. Much will depend on Kohli’s team selection for the tough English conditions, as the ploy of backing India’s traditional strength, spin, in the World Test Championship (WTC) final backfired.
Kohli and the Indian team management had announced the playing XI for the WTC final against New Zealand two days prior, with his selection of both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja drawing flak as seam and swing presents the biggest threat to batsmen in England.
India went on the lose the match comprehensively despite rain washing out much of the encounter.
For the upcoming series, Kohli will have to think about his selection much harder as, given there are a few more dilemmas to ponder over. Shubman Gill’s leg injury has left the door wide open for the second opener’s slot, with KL Rahul, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Prithvi Shaw all in contention to partner Rohit Sharma up top.
The next three slots are virtually untouchable, but may not be after this series as senior batting stars Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are expected to carry much of the run-scoring burden for the team.
The next puzzle to solve will be that of the middle order, with Rishabh Pant pretty much guaranteed to start as India’s wicketkeeping-batsman choice. However, one of Ashwin and Jadeja’s spot as the bowling all-rounder might be in jeopardy, given that utility player Hanuma Vihari’s inclusion can make way for Shardul Thakur’s entry as well.
In the vital pace bowling department, the biggest question to answer will be whether India will opt to use Mohammed Siraj’s raw pace or not, as the 27-year-old’s performances Down Under made him a cult hero of sorts.
India will also be playing against heavy odds, as their recent record as visitors in England has been abysmal. India have lost 11 out of the last 14 Tests in England, with the last two tours in 2014 and 2018 resulting in heavy losses.
But Kohli can take heart from England's recent Test series loss to New Zealand, with the Kiwis exposing the hosts' batting fragility. Another big boost for India is Ben Stokes' "indefinite break" from cricket to focus on mental health.