India and England are all set to clash in a four-match Test series, which kicks-off in Chennai on February 5. India go in having defeated Australia 2-1 Down Under while England registered an impressive 2-0 triumph over Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. Thus, both sides will be high on confidence when the series gets underway. India haven’t lost a Test series at home since 2012, but England will be aware that they were the last side to beat India in India. As the teams’ face-off as part of the World Test Championship, we profile seven players to keep an eye on.
1. Virat Kohli
The Indian captain missed a majority of Australia Test series owing to the birth of his child. In the only Test, he played in Australia, Virat Kohli scored 74 in the first innings in Adelaide before joining the procession in the second. He will be raring to go as India look to maintain the unbeaten run. The last time England visited India, Kohli had a sensational series, amassing 655 runs in five Tests at an average of 109.16. The magnificent performance featured two hundreds, and the best of 235. Knowing Kohli’s hunger for runs, the Indian skipper will be keen for an encore.
2. Joe Root
England captain Joe Root may have fallen behind Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson in the competition for best modern-day Test batsman over the last couple of years. However, he was on top of his game in the two-Test series against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. He registered brilliant knocks of 228 and 186, and played a key role in England’s triumph. Root has an impressive record in India. In six Tests, he has 584 runs to his name at an average of 53.09. His batting could hold the key to England’s chances, like Alastair Cook in 2012.
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
While Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant stood out for India Down Under with their aggressive display, Cheteshwar Pujara did all the hard slog, taking blows all over the body, but not giving his wicket away. At home, he should have it slightly less challenging. But, Pujara is not someone who lets his guard down easily. If he gets in, England bowlers could be in for a toil. The 33-year-old enjoys a marvellous record against England at home. In nine Tests, he has amassed 839 runs at an average of 64.53, with four hundreds and a best of 206 not out.
4. Ben Stokes
There are no two ways about it that Ben Stokes is the best all-rounder in world cricket at present. The 29-year-old was not part of the Sri Lanka Tests, so he will be fresh for the India challenge. With his batting prowess, Stokes has pulled off some miraculous victories while his tenacious medium pace can also win England matches. The visitors will want Stokes to be on top of his game. In five Tests in India, the all-rounder has 345 runs to his name at an average of 38.33 with one hundred. With the ball, he has eight wickets at an average of nearly 45. Nothing sensational, but Stokes is a completely changed player to the one who visited India in 2016-17.
5. Ravichandran Ashwin
After a few tough tours to Australia, Ravichandran Ashwin finally found his bearings on the recent visit Down Under. He strangled two of Australia’s best batsmen, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, with some smart bowling. Back home, he will be an even bigger threat on spin-friendly surfaces. According to former England cricketer Monty Panesar, the visitors’ fortunes in India could well depend on how they tackle Ashwin. In nine home Tests, Ashwin has claimed 42 wickets against England, with three five-wicket hauls.
6. Jofra Archer
The England fast bowler has had an impressive start to his Test career, having claimed 38 wickets in 11 matches at an average of 31, including three five-fors. However, this is Jofra Archer’s first visit to the sub-continent, which has proved to be a graveyard for many pace bowlers over the years. The 25-year-old though does possess the x-factor with his extreme pace. So, India will have to be well prepared to face his quick deliveries.
7. Jasprit Bumrah
India’s pace spearhead lifted his game in the Test series in Australia, after a disappointing show in the ODIs. Having recovered from an abdominal strain that ruled him out of the Gabba Test, it remains to be seen whether Jasprit Bumrah can hit peak pace right away. The 27-year-old has proved to be a match-winner in his short but impressive Test career. In 17 Tests, he has 79 scalps at an average of under 22. Along with Ashwin, he will be a major threat for England.