Number one ranked team in the longest format of the game India are ready to face struggling England in the first Test of five-match series in Rajkot on Wednesday.There are still questions as to whether the first match will go ahead as per schedule, after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) threatens to call off the opening Test unless the Indian Supreme Court orders to unfreeze their accounts.
However, teams are ready to battle it out to gain supremacy early in the much awaited series.For Team India, there is a chance to take revenge against the same opposition, who defeated them four years ago in 2012, courtesy sublime batting performance from Kevin Pietersen, and deadly spin combination of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.
However, things have changed since then for both the teams, and the hosts looked a far threatening side in their home conditions then they were four years ago.Back then, it was MS Dhoni leading the Indian team, who is now retired from the five-day format, and the team also featured the likes of legendary Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.This time around, it’s a much younger team, who are famous for playing the brand as their captain calls it ‘fearless’.Virat Kohli, who has led the Indian side in four consecutive series victories after taking over from Dhoni, will be hoping to continue his team’s good performances on their home soil.
Kohli is among six players who was also the part of the team four years ago, when the Indian team suffered a surprising defeat after winning the first match of the series comprehensively.Even though there is a feel good factor with the current top side in the five-day format, their final eleven is far from being a settled one, as there are more than one place up for grab come Wednesday.Veteran opener Gautam Gambhir is set to retain his place at the top of the order after an impressive comeback against New Zealand, whereas there is still doubt whether all-rounder Hardik Pandya or Karun Nair will replace Rohit Sharma.
On the other hand, England are coming into the series after poor performance in the two-match Test series against Bangladesh.Even though the Three Lions drew the series 1-1, but they could’ve easily lost against the number nine ranked side, had it not been for the collapse of the hosts in the last hour of the fourth day’s play of the first Test.Captain Alastair Cook, middle-order batsman Joe Root and fast-bowler Stuart Broad are the only three players in the playing eleven for the Rajkot Test, who was the part of the winning side four years ago.Young Haseeb Hameed is set to make debut in the first match in place of struggling Gary Balance, whereas veteran Gareth Batty, who was rested for the second match against Bangladesh, is also making a comeback for the visitors.
The pitch is expected to be a real turner, which means hosts are going in with a big advantage against a team, who is constantly struggling against quality spin.