Four Spinners: Before any test series the mind games start way before the actual cricket begins. And India have put the ball in the England court by picking four spinners. It doesn’t necessarily mean the pitches will be square turners or that at least three spinners will play in the XI. For all we know, the pitches might be good batting decks and India might just use Ashwin and Jadeja throughout the five tests. But it gives the visitors something to worry about.
Hardik Pandya: Not a single player in the history of Indian cricket has made his T20, ODI and Tests debuts in a year. Hardik Pandya could be the first one if he gets picked in the XI. But the mere fact that he’s part of the squad speaks a lot about the faith the team management has in him. And that faith could solely be put down to the fact that Hardik is a rare breed- a fast bowling all-rounder. Pandya isn’t even a fully developed first class cricketer so it will be interesting to see if India actually throw him in the deep end, and if so at what no. he plays.
Injury woes: Rohit Sharma’s test spot was always under the scanner before the NZ series, but Sharma more or less cemented his place by playing substantial knocks in all the three tests. Kohli doing away with the five-bowler theory also helped. Unfortunately due to the injury he picked up during the final ODI against NZ, Sharma will miss the entire series against NZ. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul have also not recovered so Gambhir will open the innings with Vijay whereas Karun Nair is the other specialist batsman in the squad.
Ishant is back: India’s most experienced quick- Ishant Sharma is back in the squad having recovered from Chikungunya and also played a couple of first-class matches since then. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, despite his good showings in the last test he played, is the one to miss out as he hasn’t had any match practice since recovering from injury.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt.), R Ashwin, Gautam Gambhir, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Karun Nair, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Jayant Yadav