Virat Kohli   s men will eye a repeat of 1993 whitewash in order to  maintain supremacy in the ICC Test Ranking table    AFP
Virat Kohli s men will eye a repeat of 1993 whitewash in order to maintain supremacy in the ICC Test Ranking table AFP

England put a lot of emphasis on Test cricket but have they prepared enough for this herculean tour of India where they will play a five-Test series? They have not played a single practice match. The challenge will be no less than surviving in lion s den when this young and inexperienced English side will enter the playing greens at Rajkot. However to their advantage, England are the only side who have managed to test India at home in recent times. In 2006, they pulled off a win at Mumbai to level the series and two-and-half years later, India pulled off an empathic win at Chennai where they chased down 387. England had fought hard. Unfortunately two-Test series never reveals the complete picture. Then came 2012-13, England went home smiling 2-1. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 1st Test at Rajkot

It has now been three consecutive series that England have won against India. But there is no Kevin Pietersen, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann this time. India are the No.1 Test side and England, who escaped Bangladesh just managing 1-1, are massive underdogs. More than the revenge bit that is broadcasted in the promos of the series, Virat Kohli s men will eye a repeat of 1993 whitewash in order to extend the lead and maintain supremacy in the ICC Test Ranking table.

Mystery at Rajkot

Though the conditions here will suit India more, it would not be fair to say that it will be a complete home advantage. India have never played a Test here. England will not miss home either. The press box here is a replica of the one at Lord s and the roofs remind you of Adelaide Oval. Indian fans will hope this Adelaide bit will fire-up Kohli, who has a fabulous record at the Australian ground.

Rajkot gears up for its Test debut. A look at the surface, the brownish colour tells you that it is good for batting. The wicket has some cracks and there is fresh green grass around it. There are patches as well. It is Ravindra Jadeja s home ground, so expect turn but the how much bit will be known once the Test gets underway. To England s respite, the track here would not be as evil as the ones in Bangladesh but still no side will want to bat last. This makes the toss important.

DRS time

Along with Rajkot, DRS (Decision Review System) will make its debut in India. England have the advantage here for using the technology on regular basis. India, who in the past, have been apprehensive about this, will have to adapt quickly. So far, India s success with DRS in international cricket stands at 22 percent, so that adds to the anxiety bit.

“It is a completely new concept for all of us. We will have to wait and see about the DRS, but yes, we have been discussing about this from the last series and we had some plan. Wicketkeeper is obviously very important and as a slip fielder, you have that role to convey that message to the captain and also bowler, said Ajinkya Rahane about this new addition.

Even as a batting partner, an additional responsibility falls on your shoulders. The Mumbai batsman added, As a batsman, you are completely involved in the game, you have to see where the ball is going and you have to convey that message to your partner. You have to be sure all the time.

Team compositions

England bat deep. With someone like Stuart Broad or Gareth Batty batting at No.11, the theory is proved but do they have enough quality in their ranks? Most of their players have not played in Indian conditions. Yes, there is Alastair Cook. Joe Root, who made his Test debut in India, has played only a Test. The inexperience bit may haunt them. With Gary Ballance woefully out of touch, we may see Jos Buttler, the man with IPL experience under his belt, in an unfamiliar role of playing as a specialist batsman.

If not, teenager Haseeb Hameed will be handed his Test cap and walk out to open with captain Cook with Ben Duckett pushed to No.4. Broad, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes should constitute their pace battery for the first Test. However, it will be spin, which will have the final say in the series. I repeat they do not have Swann and Panesar this time. England s spin woes have never been graver.

The recalled 39-year-old Gareth Batty alongside Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali seems to be the order for Rajkot. Moeen did trouble India in England and has grown in reputation as an off-spinner but his prowess with the SG ball is still to be seen.

Overall, Broad, who has a dismal record in India, will be the leader of the bowler s pack on his 100th Test. With no James Anderson, he will be the one shouldering the charge of countering Kohli s brigade. Do not be surprised if we see Broad trying the Anderson formula of testing Kohli outside off-stump.

The Indian camp, which is plagued by injuries, is missing the services of KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The team think-tank is sweating over Karun Nair and Hardik Pandya, either of the two will be handed a Test cap at Rajkot. While Nair s entry will boost the batting, Pandya lends the side an all-round balance.

Kohli, who earlier has employed the five-bowler artillery, has not been confident with the side s batting abilities in recent times and in the New Zealand series, we saw him go ahead with six specialist batsmen. With Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja getting runs, he may look to field five bowlers.

Ashwin alongside Amit Mishra and Jadeja will be a lethal spin trio. India should look to play to that advantage. Also, Mishra can be termed as a bowling all-rounder and over the years he has played gritty knocks down the order.

One of the most anticipated contests is now just a day away. Test cricket s No.1 bowler and all-rounder Ashwin, who has been on a record-breaking spree, may well make this Test his own, once again.


India: Virat Kohli (c), Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Umesh Yadav.

England: Alastair Cook (c), Ben Duckett, Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, Gareth Batty, Steven Finn, Zafar Ansari, Haseeb Hameed, Jos Buttler (wk), Jake Ball.

Time: 9.30 IST | 4.00 GMT

(SuvajitMustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully [Twitter] and rivu7 [Facebook].)