Analysis of India’s squad for the first 3 Tests against England

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India Vs England Test Series 2018

The BCCI on Wednesday, announced an 18-member squad for the first three Tests against England, starting 1st August.
Virat Kohli will once again lead the side in the 5-match series and Ajinkya Rahane will deputise him. Given the size of the squad, one may feel that the Indian board has followed a bizarre selection policy since several players will be benched. With several top teams selecting a lesser squad of players, India, on the other hand, have kept to their habits of going for a larger pool.
There were not many surprises in store given India’s recent achievements. Bhuvneshwar Kumar misses out with a back injury that kept him out of the recent T20I and ODI matches against England. He came back to play the final ODI but was out of shape and form. Jasprit Bumrah in nursing his broken thumb and is set to miss the first Test. Therefore one sees Shardul Thakur being included.
Karun Nair, who was drafted in. The No. 1 Test team against Afghanistan, keeps his place in the squad. The surprise inclusion was that of Rishabh Pant, who is selected as the 2nd choice keeper alongside Dinesh Karthik. Kuldeep Yadav too got the nod as India opted for a three-member spin attack.
India started the tour of England well after winning the T20Is, but they were floored in the ODI series. Therefore seeking momentum early on will be key for Virat Kohli’s men.

Here is an analysis of the squad for the three Tests as of now addressing the key aspects.

Strengths

India vs England Test
The duo of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have been opening together for long. India needs solid starts from them (Image: Sky Sports)

The likes of openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan will continue opening the innings. Although against South Africa they looked vulnerable, in Indian conditions they were amongst the runs. The Indian team will be hoping to see the duo play a pivotal role in England and also Australia later this year. The start in England will be key to lay the foundation. What will test them is the opening combination of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in swinging conditions.
The middle-order is where India is very strong. Cheteshwar Pujara will be accustomed to the conditions after playing County cricket earlier here. His presence at number three bodes well for India. The form of KL Rahul is a big plus. Although he is likely to be at the bench and be called upon later on if the top order fails.
The main fulcrum of the Indian side is Kohli. The 29-year-old has been splendid in both the T20Is and ODIs to show he is enjoying batting here. He will be tested severely though, but this could just be Kohli’s year. He was stupendous against the Proteas.
The regular spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are back. Ashwin will be the player to watch out for and is the side’s leader of the bowling pack. He had a commendable series against the Proteas and Afghanistan. India is likely to play a lone spinner which means the duo of Jadeja and Kuldeep will be benched. The presence of Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder gives India the cushion as the fourth pacer in the side and also valuable runs at number 7.
The pace attack also has the required experience in Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. It is likely that Ishant, who has been in good touch in his county spell, share the new ball with Yadav.

Weaknesses

The absence of Bhuvneshwar could be a massive blow for the Indian Team (Image: PTI)

The absence of Bhuvneshwar is a telling one. Last time India toured England for the Tests, Bhuvi was excellent after picking 19 wickets. And with him not being there, Kohli has been handed a severe blow.
Also, Jasprit Bumrah missing the first Test will be massive. Although he could make a comeback in the Test to follow, it will be interesting to watch him as he hasn’t played much cricket post the Indian Premier League 2018.
Shardul Thakur hasn’t impressed in the opportunities he has got recently. If another injury comes up, then England will be the happier side facing him. Mohammed Shami returned to the squad, but it remains to be seen whether he can replicate the form he had against South Africa. With all the issues he faced since the last few months, his confidence will be really low.
Ajinkya Rahane’s form is also a worry. Last time against Lanka he disappointed before being dropped to the bench for the first two Tests against South Africa. Whether the 48 in the third Test against SA in Johannesburg will give him a lift here, it remains to be seen. He did not fare well against the Afghans as well.

Opportunities

Rishabh Pant has been rewarded for his fearless batting (Image: PTI)

There is an opportunity for Umesh Yadav to come good. If he can continue with the form in recent matches in English conditions, that will be of huge significance. With Bumrah likely to knock at the door after his return, it is an opportunity for Umesh to come good and show the skipper he deserves a regular place.
For Karthik too there is a big chance to shine if he gets picked ahead of Pant, which is a likely scenario. India need his attributes at number 6 and no doubt he is a better batsman than the injured Wriddhiman Saha and the overlooked Parthiv Patel. If Pant gets a chance to showcase his potential, that will be a strong factor as well. He is in the squad as the selectors want him to grow and develop as he is the future Indian keeper in all formats.

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