Only a few days are left for the Test series between England and India and Sourav Ganguly feels it is important for Virat Kohli-led team not to make a blunder in choosing the playing XI. Talking to India TV, Ganguly says he doesn't want Indian team management to pick their XI for the first Test on the basis of the practice match.
"India is prepared for the challenge. A confident team like India shouldn't decide its playing XI on the basis of performances in the practice match," he said.
Ganguly's words found the support of another former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag. Sehwag opined, "India is ready for the first Test. However, one confusion remains: whether they are going to play two fast bowlers, one all-rounder and two spinners or three fast bowlers, one all-rounder in Hardik Pandya and one spinner. The decision will depend on the playing conditions."
Shikhar Dhawan's place is in danger after being dismissed on a couple of ducks in the warm-up game. Ganguly has preferred KL Rahul, who has a better overseas record, over Dhawan to open with Murali Vijay.
"Dhawan's history on overseas pitches hasn't been very impressive. He goes overseas, fails to perform and gets dropped after a few Test matches. He has played amazing cricket in the subcontinent and recently scored a century against Afghanistan before lunch. Rahul, on the other hand, has scored a hundred in Australia, played well in South Africa and West Indies too. I like him technically and he has been successful overseas. I'll be surprised if India chooses not to open with Murali Vijay and Rahul in the first Test," said Ganguly.
Cheteshwar Pujara too failed to impress against Essex but Sehwag and Ganguly still want to go with him. They feel he may turn things for India. "Pujara is not in good form. He recently played county cricket and his average was just 13-14. However, in his last Test at the Wanderers, where India won the third Test, he scored a fifty. He has a century in South Africa to his name. He hasn't been up to the mark in England, but has played better than Dhawan in countries like South Africa, West Indies, and England," said Ganguly.
Sehwag backed both Dhawan and Pujara to score in England. He wants the southpaw to gain some experience in the tough batting condition. He said, "It is his second tour of England, so he'll get to learn a lot. Ajinkya Rahane and Vijay were the only successful batsmen on India's last tour of England. I strongly believe that both Pujara and Dhawan will perform better this time in England. Dhawan will have to score this time because as Dada said if you don’t make runs overseas, you won't get home series either."
Facing James Anderson and Stuart Broad in English conditions is no joke. It is going to be the real test for Indian batsmen who enjoyed the subcontinental conditions.
"Jimmy and Broad have a fabulous home record. They will be the biggest threats for India in Tests. It'll be interesting to see how much grass the curator leaves on the pitch for the fast bowlers. Ben Stokes and Sam Curran will also strengthen England's bowling attack in home conditions," said Ganguly who has 7212 runs in Tests.
Speaking on the controversial comeback to Test team of Adil Rashid, Sehwag said, "They have brought in Adil Rashid especially for Virat Kohli, but he won't get to play if there is grass on the pitch in the first Test. In that case, England would go with Moeen Ali because he can bat as well. Last time, he was the highest wicket-taking spinner against India. If England plays one spinner in Birmingham, Moeen Ali will play and if they prepare a dry wicket then Adil Rashid might get a chance."
Will the bad past haunt Virat in England? Ganguly and Sehwag don't think so. The Indian skipper is now a changed cricketer and has improved himself a lot.
"We hope for a century from Virat Kohli this time as he failed to put up an impressive show in 2014. However, he has changed a lot since then. It's hard to imagine Kohli not performing in a lengthy five-match Test series. England's batting is weak at the moment as we saw Pakistan defeat them in the first Test. India has the best chance to win the series this time," said Ganguly.
Sehwag seconds Ganguly's thought. He added: "He made two fifties in ODIs and made 70 runs in the practice match. Seeing his current form, I hope he scores at least two hundred in ten innings of the five-match Test series. India will have to match the first innings total of England if they want to win the first Test."
Ganguly named his playing XI for the first Test and also lauded the performance by Umesh Yadav in the only warm-up game.
"I am happy with the current form of Umesh Yadav. He not only claimed four wickets but conceded just 30 runs in 20 overs. It’s a good sign for India," concluded Ganguly.
Ganguly's Playing XI: KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, R Ashwin, Two fast bowlers and Kuldeep Yadav