On most days, India will be favourites for a home series irrespective of who the opponent is. India haven’t lost a series at home since 2012. They have only failed to win two of their last 25 Tests at home, with one loss and one draw each. The case is no different this time – India will be firm favourites, especially in the form they arrive in.
England, though, will be no pushovers. They’re the side that last won a Test series in India. They did lose a five-match series 4-0 in 2016, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the full story. England competed hard and gave India a decent run for their money, but Virat Kohli’s men were just too good.
England have arrived in India without their full strength squad, thanks to COVID-19 and bubble life difficulties, while India are closer to their strongest side. India showed their depth in Australia, so it’s now hard to say which is their strongest side, especially at home. But if England can punch above their weight, like India did in Australia, who knows?
Crucial points for the World Test Championship are at stake too, adding context to the clash.
WHAT: India vs England, 1st Test
WHEN: February 5-9, 9.30 AM IST
WHERE: MA Chidambaram stadium, Chennai
TELECAST: Star Sports Network
LIVE STREAMING: Disney + Hotstar
India Team News
India have a problem of plenty. Virat Kohli is back. Ishant Sharma is back. R Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah will be back in the XI again after missing the last Test in Australia. Hardik Pandya is back too. Their only – and possibly big – worry is the absence of Ravindra Jadeja.
There were initial reports that the Chepauk pitch would be pace friendly, but that’s highly unlikely. India will play three spinners in all likelihood; Ashwin is an automatic pick, while Kuldeep Yadav could play the second spinner’s role. Axar Patel could make his debut considering India already have two spinners bringing the ball into the right hander.
If that happens, Washington Sundar, one of their heroes in Brisbane, will consider himself unlucky. But such is the depth of the side.
Next question: Who will keep? Rishabh Pant is an automatic choice in the XI after his terrific knock in Brisbane, but what about his keeping? Can he don the gloves in a home Test with three spinners? Or will India play Wriddhiman Saha along with Pant?
The pace dilemma: Mohammed Siraj or Ishant Sharma to partner Jasprit Bumrah? Ishant is back in full fitness and should walk into the XI. Siraj is one of the stories of the Australian tour. But like Washington, he too could be unlucky to miss out.
And finally: Shubman Gill vs Mayank Agarwal. 14, 243, 10, 108, 7, 215 – these are Agarwal’s scores in the home season of 2019. Now who would have imagined that his position will not be guaranteed?
But Gill is the man in form, and is likely to get the nod.
Predicted XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah
England Team News
England suffered an injury blow with Zak Crawley ruled out of the first two Tests after ‘jarring his right wrist’. Ollie Pope, who himself was added to the squad on Wednesday after proving his fitness, may get added into the team.
Rory Burns and Dom Sibley should open for England, with Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes making the middle order. Moeen Ali, Dom Bess and Jack Leach form a three spin attack which means England could have space for only one pacer between James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Who they go in with will be interesting to watch.
England have spoken about the need to rotate their players, especially in the bubble era. Thus, Broad and Anderson could not play together as Jofra Archer is all set to play his first Test in India.
Predicted XI: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Daniel Lawrence, Joe Root (capt), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad
Head to Head: Last five Tests (India tour of England in 2018)
England 4, India 1.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant(w), Washington Sundar, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, KL Rahul, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mayank Agarwal, Wriddhiman Saha
England: Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Daniel Lawrence, Joe Root(c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler(w), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Ben Foakes, Olly Stone, Dominic Bess