Team India has been battered by injury woes ahead of the first Test against England, which will begin in Nottingham from August 4. Opener Shubman Gill is already back in India having suffered a shin injury while all-rounder Washington Sundar and Avesh Khan are also on the injured list. Captain and vice-captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane missed out on the practice game against County Select XI in Durham due to injury issues. Having got it wrong in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand, it will be imperative for India to get their combination right in the first Test. Here is our predicted XI for India for the opening Test against England.
Openers: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal
Although there are reports of India planning to bring in Prithvi Shaw as a replacement for Gill, Mayank Agarwal should open the innings with Rohit Sharma in the first Test. Rohit scored only 9 in the first innings of the practice match and did not bat in the second but he looked good in the WTC final without getting big scores. In the absence of Gill, Agarwal should get his spot back at the top of the order. He scored 28 and 47 in the practice encounter and should look to grab any opportunity that comes his way with both hands.
Middle-order: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul
Before and after the Test series in Australia, Cheteshwar Pujara has failed to make any impact with the bat. He has looked out of sorts, consuming a lot of deliveries but failing to carry on. He failed in the WTC final as well. India are likely to retain him on reputation but time is running out for him.
Indian captain Virat Kohli had a fabulous series in England in 2018. He may not have scored a hundred in two years but has looked good most times he has stepped out to the middle. Like Pujara, Rahane’s Test spot too is on the line. In the last 11 Tests, Rahane has only managed 135 runs at an average of 28.15.
Rishabh Pant batted at No. 6 in the WTC final but clearly looked unequipped to deal with the conditions. As a result, India might bring in KL Rahul at the No. 6 spot. The batsman impressed with a fluent hundred in the practice encounter and strengthened his case for a Test comeback.
Wicket-keeper: Rishabh Pant
Having recovered from COVID-19, Rishabh Pant will be keen to make his mark in the five-match Test series in England. He has had an amazing time in international cricket over the last six months. But the WTC final hinted that English conditions will definitely pose a challenge to the youngster.
Bowlers: Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
It is often said that a team needs five bowlers to bowl out the opposition twice. However, considering their weak batting, India could look to play an extra batter (Rahul) and go in with four bowlers. Although Ravindra Jadeja impressed in the practice game, he is unlikely to find a place in the playing XI for the first Test.
Ravichandran Ashwin will possibly be India’s sole spin option in Nottingham. At No. 8, he will also add depth to the batting order. Significantly, he will be expected to take wickets. Mohammed Shami was India’s best bowler in the WTC final and should find a place in the bowling lineup.
India’s No. 1 pacer Jasprit Bumrah, rather ironically, went wicketless in the WTC final, looking completely out of sorts. But India will be confident of Bumrah putting up a much better show in the Test series. Ishant Sharma was preferred over Mohammed Siraj in the WTC final but the latter should get his place back in Nottingham. Siraj’s swing is something India dearly missed against the Kiwis in Southampton.