England vs India: 5 Players to Watch
India V England -- We take a look at five players from both teams
With India set to conquer their Achilles’ heel in England in the ongoing five-match Test series, an array of questions welcomes them. Do they have the right personnel? Have they adapted well enough to the conditions? Can Virat Kohli conquer his England woes? Should they play Kuldeep Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin or both?
While most of those questions will have been answered by series’ end, the pre-series talk has focused on a few specific individuals, on whom much of the responsibility lies. And England have a few questions of their own to answer. Here, we take a look at five players from both teams who will be under the microscope as the series unfolds.
The English skipper is a dominant force at home and on the back of two centuries in the recently concluded ODI series against India. Root recently promoted himself back to number 3 in the batting line-up, and is likely to continue there, batting behind Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings. Root is the anchor of this England batting line-up but in Tests has somehow failed to live up to the hype the past few months.
He couldn’t convert any of his last eleven 50-plus scores to centuries, not even the half-century at Edgbaston -- a major cause of concern as he is the guy assigned to make those daddy hundreds. His pathetic conversion rate is compounded by a tendency to throw his wicket away in crunch situations, all of which works against the skipper. This series is a huge one for Root the batsman and, thankfully for him, he’s found some much needed form ahead of the series. But the run-out and Kohli's aggressive celebrations could push Root into a corner.
The number 3 batsman, like Root, carries the weight of the Indian batting line-up even with the presence of Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Pujara is the spoke round which the Indian batting wheel turns and it would be crucial for India that he don the sheet anchor role. But, incredibly, he was dropped from the starting XI at Edgbaston, a decision that could return to haunt the team if Kohli is tasked with scoring all the runs with little to no support.
The major drawback with Pujara is his woefully poor performance in overseas tours outside the subcontinent. His technique and patience are praiseworthy in the dry, dusty tracks back home, but he has been found wanting in conditions that demand the batsman work hard against pace.
Pujara struggled in South Africa earlier this year, and the trend continued in County Cricket where he once again failed to get going or find that 'intent’ which Kohli talks about so much. This is a massive series for Pujara and the onus is on him to turn his fortunes around, when he gets to play. It remains to be seen whether Shastri-Kohli will continue to bench him or give him a recall at 3.
The rollicking England seamer is a beast in home conditions and makes the ball talk according to his whim. With 500-plus wickets in Test cricket, Anderson has truckloads of experience and could prove to be the thorn in India's side as the series progresses.
He is a big-match player and will step up his game to counter the solid Indian batting line-up. Anderson was phenomenal the last time India played in England and comes fresh from a few spectacular home series. With 78 Test wickets at home in the last two years, the most by any England bowler, Anderson leads this England bowling attack. How India play him could well define the tenor of the series.
Going by his exploits on Day 2 at Edgbaston, Anderson is all geared up for the huge battle. He set the tone with a searing spell against Virat Kohli although the skipper did manage to loosen the noose and work his way to a ton.
The chinaman spinner stole the limelight in the limited-overs leg of the tour with some astounding performances. With wile and guile he had the English batsmen dancing to his tune. England used the Merlyn to overcome their woes against Kuldeep with reasonable success, but in Test cricket they’ll need to keep him out ball after ball, which could get tiresome if he manages to remain consistent and patient.
Kuldeep Yadav is an X-factor player, one whom this aggressive management is likely to vehemently promote. For this reason alone, his chances of making the playing XI later in the series look good. Add to that the turn Ashwin found in the first innings: Kuldeep could potentially be playing alongside him. If he plays, Kuldeep will be needed to attack and pick wickets, not to contain. Can he keep his trade secret a secret, though?
The incomparable hero of this Indian batting line-up, Virat Kohli had more than a point to prove as he padded up for the first Test. With his Test record clearly on the up and up ever since he tightened his technique, Kohli must want to put behind him his struggles in the country four years ago. Then, he had edged quite a few balls outside the off-stump to the cordon, resulting in a series of low scores.
However, he has begun this series with a spectacular knock, a massive 149 under severe pressure, with India wilting to some fiery England bowling under overcast skies. Kohli stood tall to counter the English bowlers and returned with a mammoth score, bettering his previous best in the country (39) by 110 runs. His sensational knock all but puts a lid on criticisms of his woes outside off.