Team India had previously toured England in 2014 and suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat in the five-match Test series despite drawing the first Test in Nottingham and winning the second one at Lord’s. Apart from struggling against the English pacers, India batsmen were found wanting against the off-spinner Mooen Ali, who surprisingly ended the series with 19 wickets.
Similarly, England leg-spinner Adil Rashid turned out to be the nemesis for India batsmen during the recently concluded three-match ODI series. He picked up 6 wickets at an average of 24.83 to script a 2-1 series win for England.
Considering the unexpected struggle of Indian batsmen against spin bowling, former Team India manager Lalchand Rajput has advised Virat Kohli and company to choose their moments against spin better in the five-match Test series against England, starting on August 1 at Edgbaston.
“Since (Graeme) Swann and (Monty) Panesar, they (England) haven’t had a good spinner. But we saw last time (in 2014) that Moeen (Ali) took the most wickets for his side,” Rajput said in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times.
“Yes, spin is England’s weak link but India must target their spinner(s) with caution this time around. If Anderson and Broad are able to create pressure from the other end, spin will come in handy for the hosts,” he added.
Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat and Ajinkya Rahane seem certain for the opening Test. Either one of Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul would partner Vijay at the top. Given that Dhawan had scored a blistering hundred in his last Test outing against Afghanistan in Bangalore last month, he is likely to get the nod.
“On current form, Dhawan could open with Vijay. Rahul will surely have a part to play at some stage. As for Rahul, I think he will be under pressure to perform. Inconsistent shows can lead to him being dropped, just like Rohit (Sharma), who deserved the axe after a poor showing in South Africa,” Rajput remarked.
When asked about the inclusion of spinner in the playing XI, Lalchand Rajput preferred the experienced campaigner Ravichandran) Ashwin ahead of the wrist-spin sensation, Kuldeep Yadav.
“Ashwin should be the first choice. He can even bat and same is the case with Jadeja. I think Kuldeep will have to wait for his chance,” he opined.
Rajput concluded by talking about India’s chances in the five-Test series.
“That’s (the 3-1 loss in 2014) history now. But as compared to last time, they are better prepared. Above all, fitness will be tested the most,” he signed-off.
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