ENG vs IND: 5 major challenges for India to overcome | 5 major challenges for Kohli-led India in the England vs India Test series
The Indian cricket team is set to kick off a long English summer, as they will face the Joe Root-led England side for a five-match long Test series.
It will also mark the commencement of the coming cycle of the World Test Championship (WTC). Such is the nature of the competition that a team cannot afford to be a complacent even for a moment, given that it can have remarkable repercussions with respect to their qualifying chances two years down the line.
On that note, the Indian team will be edging for a successful series against the Englishmen, and here we note down five major challenges that Kohli’s men will have to face in that course of action.
1. Opening Conundrum
Amidst the historic Australian tour, one got the impression that the Indian team had found their ideal opening combination for foreign conditions. Shubman Gill looked to have come of age at that time, with Rohit Sharma steadily doing the job demanded of him quite well too.
The duo delivered fairly well in the first innings of the WTC finale as well. However, Gill’s injury means that we might be staring at another rejig at the top for now. Mayank Agarwal opened with Rohit in the practice game whereas KL Rahul struck a fluent century from the middle-order in the very same match.
There’s also the option of slotting in a consistent domestic opener like Abhimanyu Easwaran in the XI, though it might be very unlikely to happen.
Furthermore, someone like Cheteshwar Pujara could also be asked to open with Rohit, with Rahul being slotted in the middle along with skipper and vice-captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. The route that the Indian team opts to take might as well determine their fate in this series.
2. The Tailend Challenge
A persistent issue troubling the Indian team across many years is the tailend challenge. The side tends to concede an additional amount of runs to the opposition’s backend and falls short of holding their ground with the willow when push comes to shove for their own tailend.
This creates a disparity in the overall totals and ends up being detrimental to the Indian team’s chances, especially on foreign soil. This was apparent in the WTC final too, wherein the Kiwi pacers scored a handful with the duo of Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee notching 51 runs between them.
In a low-scoring encounter, those contributions turned out to be extremely decisive, with the Indian tail-enders being unable to match up to the Kiwi’s proficiency with the bat.
The bowling unit might have to come up with certain specific strategies to prevent that from happening, with the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin offering extra cushion with the willow towards the fag end of the batting order.
3. KL Rahul. Does he fit in or not?
For far too long, KL Rahul has been an exceptional player unlucky to cement a permanent slot in the Indian team. More often than not it has been a result of mounting competition that has pushed him to stay on the sidelines.
However, there have been murmurs of the flamboyant batter making it to the Indian XI in the England series, though the spot that he might play in is quite uncertain as of now.
Perhaps, the Indian side is looking to add further steel in their lineup following the WTC finale and hence would go for an extra batsman in place of either Jadeja or Ashwin. In such an instance, Rahul could possibly get a spot in the middle-order, in place of someone like Hanuma Vihari.
The Punjab Kings skipper scored an excellent century in the practice match recently, further amplifying calls for his inclusion in the XI.
There’s also a spot vacant at the top, where he might face tough competition from Mayank Agarwal. Nevertheless, to adjust the right-hander in the XI and his subsequent performances will be an interesting point to ponder upon for the Indian team management.
4. The Mohammed Siraj factor
Mohammed Siraj has been an absolute revelation for the Indian team ever since debuting in the Border-Gavaskar series last year.
Having toiled it hard in the domestic circuit for years, the pacer seamlessly slotted into the thick of things and spearheaded the bowling attack in the wake of injuries to many senior players to lead India to a historic series victory.
However, Ishant Sharma’s return meant that Siraj had to sit out of the WTC finale XI, in which many predicted him to actually make it to the final team. Regardless of that, the coming five-match series will present captain Kohli countless opportunities to factor a pacer of Siraj’s caliber into the XI.
His bowling style will perhaps suit the English conditions quite as well, and his tireless attitude ensures that the other premier bowlers could catch a break whenever required. By the end of the series, one can arguably witness some key alterations in India’s bowling unit, courtesy of Mohammed Siraj.
5. Collective batting effort
The Indian team would require much more than individual heroics to capture a memorable victory in the English shores this time around. A five-match long series demands consistent, collective efforts from key batsmen and the experienced, seasoned heads in the camp surely realize this.
At times, one has witnessed fragmented displays of peerless batting from different players in the Indian unit, which has saved the day for the team.
However, this tour would require the key men to stand up and front the challenge together, as they would face a skillful English bowling unit that is peerless in home conditions.
The Indian bowlers will be up for the challenge and have demonstrated their abilities time and again. The Indian batsmen have done so too, but now it’s time for all of them to do it simultaneously, match after match.
Written by Tarkesh Jha. Follow Tarkesh on Twitter