As if the buzz concerning the forthcoming Test series between England and India was any lesser, former India captain Sourav Ganguly has spiced it up, saying that the prime attraction of the series will be the duel between Virat Kohli and James Anderson.
During the 2014 England tour, Anderson was Kohli’s biggest nemesis, dismissing him 4 times in 10 innings. Overall, Anderson has taken Virat’s wicket five times in Tests going back to 2012. However, Kohli turned the table during the 2016 Test series at home as he dominated Anderson and England by scoring 655 runs in 5 Tests at an average of 109.16.
"Duel between Virat Kohli and James Anderson will be interesting to watch," Ganguly quoted as saying by India TV.
Despite his awe-inspiring record all over the world, Virat hasn’t been able to perform at his best in red-ball cricket on English soil. With just 134 runs in five Test matches at a dismal average of 13.40, doing well in England is a top priority for the Indian captain.
However, Ganguly feels Kohli’s game has improved by many folds in the last four years and it will be different ball game altogether on this occasion.
"There's a lot of difference between the James Anderson of 2014 and the Virat Kohli of 2014. Anderson has grown older and his pace has decreased. On the other hand, Kohli is going to England as a much-improved batsman. So, it will be a great contest between the two as I feel that Anderson won't be able to dominate in the same manner as he did in 2014," he opined.
Ganguly also pointed out that there is a heat wave in England right now and the conditions could suit India more in the Test series.
"Kohli is a class batsman now and plus the conditions in England will favour him. We saw in the limited-overs series that it was pretty sunny in England. So, there will be less swing on offer and the pitches will be more batting friendly. England bowlers will have to be cautious against Kohli because if he gets set, he will make a big score," Dada remarked.
Ajinkya Rahane has played a massive role in two of India’s most meaningful overseas victories in recent past – Lord’s 2014 and Wanderers 2018. The Mumbaikar has scored a majestic 103 in the first innings of Lord’s Test on a green mamba four years ago. And Ganguly feels India’s Test vice-captain will have to stamp his authority in the Test series against England.
"Ajinkya Rahane has scored runs in England. He scored a century at Lord's during India's last tour. It was a green top and he hammered a fantastic hundred. However, this time Rahane will be under some pressure because he hasn't been able to score big in Test cricket for some time, has been in and out of the ODI team. So, it will be very important for him to stamp his authority in this series.I feel England's attack is not as lethal as it used to be in 2014. Anderson and Stuart Broad are not the same bowlers. So, I feel Indian batsmen will have a good opportunity to score against this England attack," he said.
Talking about the opening combination, Ganguly preferred the stylish right-handers – Murali Vijay and KL Rahul over the southpaw Shikhar Dhawan.
"I would go with Murali Vijay and KL Rahul as openers in the Test series. Shikhar Dhawan is a good ODI player and he was in decent touch during the ODI series as well. However, when he opens in Test cricket in overseas conditions, he doesn't have a good record, be it South Africa, England or Australia. In India, he scores hundred in Test cricket. Even in the last match against Afghanistan, he scored a hundred before Lunch and became the first Indian player to do so. So, it will be interesting to see the team management's decision on this," Sourav Ganguly concluded.
India squad for first three Tests against England:
Virat Kohli(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami