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England vs India 2018: SWOT analysis of India’s squad for the first three Test matches

The Indians will be expecting to give a good account of themselves in the five-match series against England.

Indian team
Indian team. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The BCCI on Wednesday, announced an 18-member squad for the first three Tests of the 5-match series against England, starting 1st August.

Virat Kohli will once again lead the India side and Ajinkya Rahane will deputize him. There were not many surprises in store given India’s recent achievements. Bhuvneshwar Kumar misses out with a back injury that kept him out of the recent T20I and ODI matches against England. He came back to play the final ODI but was out of shape and form.

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Jasprit Bumrah in nursing his broken thumb and is set to miss the first Test. Therefore one sees Shardul Thakur being included.

Karun Nair, who was drafted in. The No. 1 Test team against Afghanistan, keeps his place in the squad. The surprise inclusion was that of Rishabh Pant, who is selected as the 2nd choice keeper alongside Dinesh Karthik. Kuldeep Yadav too got the nod as India opted for a three-member spin attack.

India started the tour of England well after winning the T20Is, but they were floored in the ODI series. Therefore seeking momentum early on will be key for Virat Kohli’s men.

Here is an analysis of the squad for the three Tests as of now addressing the key aspects.

Strengths

The likes of openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan will continue opening the innings. Although against South Africa they looked vulnerable, in Indian conditions they were amongst the runs. The Indian team will be hoping to see the duo play a pivotal role in England and also Australia later this year. The start in England will be key to lay the foundation. What will test them is the opening combination of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in swinging conditions.

The middle-order is where India is very strong. Cheteshwar Pujara will be accustomed to the conditions after playing County cricket earlier here. His presence at number three bodes well for the Indians. The form of KL Rahul is a big plus. Although he is likely to be at the bench and be called upon later on if the top order fails.

The main fulcrum of the Indian side is Kohli. The 29-year-old has been splendid in both the T20Is and ODIs to show he is enjoying batting here. He will be tested severely though, but this could just be Kohli’s year. He was stupendous against the Proteas.

The regular spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are back. Ashwin will be the player to watch out for and is the side’s leader of the bowling pack. He had a commendable series against the Proteas and Afghanistan. India is likely to play a lone spinner which means the duo of Jadeja and Kuldeep will be benched. The presence of Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder gives India the cushion as the fourth pacer in the side and also valuable runs at number 7.

The pace attack also has the required experience in Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. It is likely that Ishant, who has been in good touch in his county spell, share the new ball with Yadav.

Weaknesses

The absence of Bhuvneshwar is a telling one. Last time India toured England for the Tests, Bhuvi was excellent after picking 19 wickets. And with him not being there, Kohli has been handed a severe blow.

Also, Jasprit Bumrah missing the first Test will be massive. Although he could make a comeback in the Test to follow, it will be interesting to watch him as he hasn’t played much cricket post the Indian Premier League 2018.

Shardul Thakur hasn’t impressed in the opportunities he has got recently. If another injury comes up, then England will be the happier side facing him. Mohammed Shami returned to the squad, but it remains to be seen whether he can replicate the form he had against South Africa. With all the issues he faced since the last few months, his confidence will be really low.

Ajinkya Rahane’s form is also a worry. Last time against Lanka he disappointed before being dropped to the bench for the first two Tests against South Africa. Whether the 48 in the third Test against SA in Johannesburg will give him a lift here, it remains to be seen. He did not fare well against the Afghans as well.

Opportunities

There is an opportunity for Umesh Yadav to come good. If he can continue with the form in recent matches in English conditions, that will be of huge significance. With Bumrah likely to knock at the door after his return, it is an opportunity for Umesh to come good and show the skipper he deserves a regular place.

For Karthik too there is a big chance to shine if he gets picked ahead of Pant, which is a likely scenario. India need his attributes at number 6 and no doubt he is a better batsman than the injured Wriddhiman Saha and the overlooked Parthiv Patel. If Pant gets a chance to showcase his potential, that will be a strong factor as well. He is in the squad as the selectors want him to grow and develop as he is the future Indian keeper in all formats.

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