India vs England, 1st Test: Sunil Gavaskar questions India’s red-ball exposure

The Indian cricket team, led by Virat Kohli, has been stationed in the UK or the better part of five weeks, having played two Twenty20 internationals against Ireland, another couple with England and then three ODIs also against the No 1 ranked team. In between, two key members of the Test squad to face England for five matches starting in Birmingham tomorrow, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane, played a four-day match for India A versus England Lions, and last week India went through the motions in a three-day tour game with Essex.

As the Pataudi Trophy gets underway at Edgbaston on Wednesday, Sunil Gavaskar has questioned whether Kohli’s team has had enough exposure to the red ball after a heavy limited-overs tour.

India vs England, 1st Test: Play Kuldeep Yadav and Rishabh Pant at Edgbaston, heeds Dilip Vengsarkar
India vs England, 1st Test: Play Kuldeep Yadav and Rishabh Pant at Edgbaston, heeds Dilip Vengsarkar

“Here in England, they have been playing for more than a month but with the white ball, so even though they have got used to the change in the body clock and the conditions, the question is have they had enough exposure to the red ball in the one practice game they played? The weather for the most part in the last month has been more Indian than British, but it’s changed slightly in the last couple of days to being a bit overcast and some rains around. If it stays that way the new ball bowlers will enjoy themselves as the ball will move a bit more and they can bowl longer spells too,” wrote the former India captain in today’s Times of India.

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With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah injured, India’s pace attack will rely heavily on Ishant Sharma, the most capped member of the Test squad, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, with the allrounder Hardik Pandya shaping to be a critical cog in the wheel.

With much speculation over whether the left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav will play at Edgbaston, Gavaskar has pointed out that having batting depth in Pandya and R Ashwin will allow the management to play a second spinner.

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“India’s think tank will be wrestling with the combination of their team for the opening Test which is a game that invariably sets the tone for the rest of the series. Do they go in with five bowlers or six batsmen and do they include two spinners in the five bowlers they pick?,” wrote Gavaskar.

“They have the advantage of two of their bowlers, R Ashwin and Hardik Pandya with Test hundreds under their belts, so they can bat deep even if they go with five batsmen and there’s Dinesh Karthik too, who has a Test hundred. If Karthik bats at six with Ashwin and Pandya to follow then they can play Kuldeep Yadav as the second spinner. Of course, it will depend on the kind of pitch they see on the morning of the game.”