India look to turn on heat
Birmingham, July 31
India would be driven by the desire to shed the poor travellers’ tag, while England would be desperate to arrest the recent slide at home when the two teams clash in the five-match Test series starting tomorrow.The visitors must pick an optimal playing XI and avoid the mistakes made on their previous overseas trip to South Africa. There, the team management had backed an in-form Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane. This time around, an in-form KL Rahul is bidding for a spot. Both Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have maintained that as third-choice opener Rahul must wait for his chance. But the batsman’s fine form just might force them to play him.In contrast, Shikhar Dhawan is in wretched form, having got a pair against Essex at Chelmsford. Cheteshwar Pujara’s form is a worry too. He is yet to get a half-century in this first-class summer and managed only 172 runs in six matches at 14.33 for Yorkshire. He scored a mere 35 against Afghanistan in Bengaluru and in the practice game at Chelmsford, he managed 1 and 23.
Batsmen hold key
For India to win the series this time around both the batsmen will have to turn a corner in form and application. While the team management is singing praises of Pujara, it is possible that Rahul could bat at No. 3, if the Dhawan-Vijay opening combination is retained.In the bowling department, with R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma also having the experience of playing county cricket here, the general feeling is that India’s bowlers are better prepared to challenge the English batsmen this time around. India’s other selection conundrum pertains to Ashwin and the number of spinners will define the visitors’ bowling strategy in the first Test.
The heat wave seems to be over and there is a chill in the Birmingham air. The city has received heavy rainfall from Saturday through Tuesday and the outfield was quite wet on Monday. But the ground should be dry enough tomorrow. However, the pitch isn’t a dry one and there is an underlying hint of moisture beneath the surface. The ground staff heavily watered the outfield and rain has further allowed moisture to be retained. On Monday, the ground staff was seen using a pitch comb to brush the fine green grass. Due to the grass, Kohli is likely to pick up only one spinner. Due to his seniority and experience, Ashwin is expected to make the cut ahead of Kuldeep Yadav, with Ravindra Jadeja relegated to third choice. Yesterday, the duo was seen practising on an adjacent wicket to the the match strip. Ashwin, allrounder Hardik Pandya and three pacers would also make for a deeper batting line-up.