Nottingham: The toughest four months of Virat Kohli’s eventful leadership career start here on Wednesday when his strategic acumen will be tested while selecting a perfect Indian combination to take on a good England side in the first Test of a five-match series.
Kohli announced his playing XI for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand couple of days before the game and drew flak for not respecting the conditions. However, on Wednesday, he will have to think overtime about the balance of his squad with a long tail and just two openers — one untested (Rohit Sharma) but very capable and another supremely talented (KL Rahul) but highly reluctant starter.
With 2000 plus Test runs, Rahul looks a logical choice to partner Rohit after Mayank Agarwal’s concussion. The other option is to have Hanuma Vihari to open as he faced the new ball in Australia. Ravichandran Ashwin would perhaps get the nod ahead of Ravindra Jadeja.
Mohammed Shami is still a wily customer and Ishant Sharma still possesses a big heart but they are ageing. Jasprit Bumrah, since his lower back stress fracture in 2019, is hardly the Test bowler one has come to know but his success in the last series may ensure a start for him.
In-form bowler Mohammed Siraj looks set to make a comeback into eleven after missing the World Test Championship final against New Zealand. The English conditions suit Siraj, who is easily the fastest bowler of the side. He has the swing and pace to trouble the English batsmen.
As the Indian captain walks out with his band of men against a side that has two artists of red Dukes at work in James Anderson and Stuart Broad. The veterans will be complemented by one of the world’s fastest bowlers in Mark Wood and a smart apprentice in Ollie Robinson.
The job for Kohli and his seasoned top-order would be easier said than done on a grassy Trent Bridge pitch. So Cheteshwar Pujara, whose middle-name critics would want to be “intent”, and Ajinkya Rahane, who at times has looked a better Test match captain, would have to do something special. But they are inconsistent.
England captain Joe Root would feel the absence of brilliant all-rounder Ben Stokes. He opted out citing “mental health issues”. It would be a very big factor.
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