The top two will be on agenda when the national selectors meet to pick India’s Test squad for the five-match series against England, starting November 9, 2016 in Rajkot. The hosts are enjoying a good run and are high on confidence with a 3-0 sweep of the visiting New Zealand in the Tests, and then a 3-2 win in the ODIs.
Virat Kohli, after being MS Dhoni’s deputy in the ODI series against the Kiwis, will be back in charge for the long series against the Alastair Cook-led unit. India fared well against New Zealand and the squad is expected to wear a similar look. Concerns, however, remain at the top of the order with KL Rahul still not 100 per cent and Shikhar Dhawan woefully out of form.
While Murali Vijay is expected to retain his place in the XI, the selectors could go ahead with Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir as the other two openers, and Gambhir’s recent 147 in the Ranji Trophy could well help him sneak into the XI for the opening Test.
Gambhir scored a fifty on return to Tests whites, and continued his good run with the bat in the domestic circuit. Dhawan, on the other hand, scored only 18 in his only outing in the New Zealand series and has been away from action since then due to injury.
As far as bowling is concerned, the spin twins R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would be back in action, and Amit Mishra’s recent show in the ODIs will make him an automatic choice for the third spinner. In the seam department, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar could be assisted by either Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma. Umesh was off-colour in the New Zealand Tests and a fit-again Ishant could well make his way back into the squad.
Ishant is testing his fitness, after a battle with Chikungunya, in the ongoing Ranji Trophy for Delhi and has picked five wickets in the two outings so far. The lanky seamer last played a Test during the tour of West Indies in August earlier this year.
India’s middle-order is as solid as you would like. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha are all among the runs, and they will be a thorn in the flesh for the visiting English team, lacking a quality spinner.