The two-Test series between England and Pakistan ended in a 1-1 draw with both teams winning by huge margins. However, it remains to be seen if the forthcoming five-Test series between India and England will be played out as evenly.
Virat Kohli will be leading an Indian side for the first time in England and he will want to put to rest all doubts that this team can win irrespective of the conditions and location. Personally, he will also look to banish the horror tour of 2014 where he had failed miserably with the bat.
After narrowly missing out on the famous series win in South Africa due to lack of foresight, India will know that getting acclimatized to the conditions way before the Tests start is the key. With the T20s and the ODIs set to be played before the longer format kicks in, there should be sufficient time in order to be ready to face the seaming duke ball.
Here are some of the challenges that lie ahead for the Indian team management:
#1 Nature of pitches
There are no prizes for guessing what the pitches will be like as England will want to repay India in the same coin. Flashback to the 2016 Indian home season where India thumped England 4-0.
On flat tracks which deteriorated slowly, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja spun a web around the English batsmen and accounted for most of the wickets. This also allowed Kohli to bring on the faster bowlers in short bursts and increase their efficiency.
In swing bowler-friendly conditions, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Chris Woakes will move the ball and it will be a challenge for the Indian batting line up. Anderson dismissed Kohli four times in the previous tour, with most of them caught behind. Kohli, who has tweaked his technique a bit after that series will be tested once again in that outside the off-stump corridor.
The Indian skipper was supposed to have a short stint with Surrey in the County Championship but had to pull out with a neck injury and will now have to play in the practice matches to work out his technique.
#2 Choosing the right bowlers
India’s trump card will be Bhuvneshwar Kumar who will also be the leader of the bowling attack. We saw in the Test series against South Africa how Bhuvi can run through batting line-ups. With the conditions in his favor, Kohli will expect Bhuvi to provide him with the vital wickets.
Jasprit Bumrah, who made his debut in South Africa and ended up with 14 wickets from three Tests should also make the squad and most probably open the bowling with Bhuvi or come as the first change if Kohli decides to open with Umesh Yadav at the other end. They also have the option of Ishant Sharma to choose from.
Umesh, who has had a fantastic Indian Premier League season will be looking forward to exploiting the bowler-friendly conditions but the Indian team management will also be wary of his lengths which can go awry sometimes. Hardik Pandya might be the fourth seamer in case the team is looking to play five bowlers which is also Kohli’s preferred mantra to win Test matches overseas.
It will also be interesting to see if the team goes with one spinner or two. If only one spinner makes the final playing 11, it is most probably Ashwin who might get the nod ahead of Jadeja. With a stint at Worcestershire last season, Ashwin will know a thing or two about bowling in England with confidence.
#3 Slip Catching
The slip catching must improve if India wants to defeat England in this highly anticipated Test series. In the Test series against Sri Lanka, six catches were put down in one innings with Kohli amongst the culprits. Slips are of vital importance particularly in England where the most common mode of dismissals is behind the wickets. Whoever is going to be manning the cordon should be communicating well enough.
Touring England, irrespective of the quality of the side, is always tough, especially for teams from the sub-continent. The conditions provide plenty of challenges, not to mention the extremely brutal media and aggressive opposition.
However, if Virat Kohli and India can tackle these challenges effectively, rest assured, we will be in for a very interesting Test series.