Opinion: CT Experts pick India's Playing XI for 1st Test against England

Saha or Pant? Siraj or Ishant? Kuldeep or Axar? Who should be part of India's playing XI for the first Test against England?

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Team India. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

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As Team India gets ready to face England in the first Test, there has been a lot of debate regarding who should make the Indian XI and who shouldn’t. We asked our experts to scratch their heads and come up with their choices and place their argument on why their bias makes perfect sense for Virat Kohli and co.

Akash Ghosh, Writer

After India’s win in the Gabba Test, picking the XI for the first Test against England has become difficult. As far as the batting is concerned, I believe, they pick themselves. Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma, followed by Pujara, Kohli and Rahane is a no-brainer. Rishabh Pant would be my keeper any day of the week and it is purely because of the way he bats. Even though Saha is a better gloveman, it’s high time team India backs Pant to handle the glovework on turning tracks as well. 

When it comes to the bowling attack, after long hard thinking, I came to the conclusion that India should play Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar. Yes, it will be unfair on Kuldeep Yadav. The fact that England struggled against Lasith Embuldeniya, a left-arm orthodox spinner, has also made me think that Patel would be more effective against them just for the angle that he brings. Plus, Sundar and Patel add to the batting depth. 

For the pace attack, I would play Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah. I believe Siraj’s pace will be important on a wicket which might slow down as the match progresses. Ishant is without a doubt a legendary bowler, but at the moment, I think India should back Siraj after his performances in Australia. 

My Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Axar Patel, Ravi Ashwin, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj

Aditya Kukalyekar, Editor

India’s top six select themselves with Virat Kohli returning to lead the side. Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul continue to be reserve openers thanks to Shubman Gill’s sensational performance in Australia. Rishabh Pant should also retain his place even though he isn’t the best wicket-keeper yet but pips Saha for his batting abilities.

Moving on to the bowling attack, according to me, we might not see a single bowler from the Gabba heist playing this Test. Ashwin returns as he seems to have recovered from his back issue and this will surely make Washington Sundar sit out. India shouldn’t go for two off-spinners in the XI and will have to balance it out with handing a Test debut to the left-arm spinner, Axar Patel.

Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah should form the pace attack and the 11th place will depend on the conditions. Given that they will be playing at the Chepauk, I believe India should go with Kuldeep Yadav. However, if the hosts decide to go in with four bowlers, Hardik Pandya could well end up playing as a specialist batsman. If they decide to play three pacers, then Shardul Thakur might play as well who is no mug with the bat either.

My India XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Axar Patel, Ravi Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav

Gauri Chandra, Writer

India is all set to stand neck to neck with England for the four-match Test series. The action will be back on the soil almost after one year and players would be eager to give their best shot. After tasting huge success in Australia where youngsters shouldered the most of the task, it was a challenging task to pick up the best XI for the first Test against England given that the seniors are back in action. 

Rishabh Pant- Though Wriddhiman Saha has been a preferred pick over Pant on various occasions, the way the latter cemented his place in the Australian tour has become a thing to watch out for. The young wicketkeeper-batsman rose to the occasion and defied all odds to get India over the line in the crunch situation. He still has to level up his gloves work but the team shouldn’t break his commendable flow in the Test matches to come.

Kuldeep Yadav- Depending on how the surface will behave, India will be able to mark its clear choice between spinners and pacers. However, Kuldeep Yadav needs to be back in action and mark his strong show to get his confidence back. He wasn’t picked in Australia and it disappointed the spinner but the talented chinaman clearly needs to be given a chance to bring his lost confidence and game back.

Washington Sundar- As Ravindra Jadeja is not good to go for the England Tests, India should go with three spinners in their lot. The young all-rounder flaunted a great show in Australia both with the bat and ball. He batted with Shardul Thakur fearlessly in the 1st innings of the Brisbane Test and made a serious case for his selection for the England Tests.

Shardul can also be roped in but I will go for Sundar, given that Chennai is his home ground and he is likely to understand the pitch better there.

My Playing XI– Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Washington Sundar, Ravi Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, and Jasprit Bumrah.

Sakshi Jain, Writer 

After a memorable victory against Australia, India will be the favourites to win the four-match Test series against England. Coming to the playing XI, I feel India should play Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill at the top after their decent performance in the Australia tour followed by Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, and Rishabh Pant. 

MA Chidambaram stadium is known to favour spinners and it is a well-known fact that England bowlers struggle against spinners. Thus, I believe India should enter the first Test with three spin options in their attack including Washington Sundar, Ravi Ashwin, and Kuldeep Yadav. Jadeja is suffering from an injury and this can pave the way for Sundar, who had done exceedingly well in the last Test in Brisbane.

As far as the pace attack is concerned, I would pick Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj, in the playing XI. Siraj was the highest wicket-taker for India during the Australia series and the team management should give rest to their pace mainstay Jasprit Bumrah as he has been continuously playing since September 2020. 

My playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Washington Sundar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj

Sai Siddhharth, Writer

Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma should open the batting for India. Gill surely deserves a place in the side after his heroics with the willow in Australia. Rohit Sharma has a stellar record in home conditions in Tests. He averages 88.33 in Tests played at home, and all his 6 Test hundreds have come on home soil. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane pick themselves. And, Rishabh Pant bags the wicket keeper’s slot. Pant was in stunning form in the Test series against Australia, scoring 274 runs at an average of 68.50. 

Pant will be followed by Washington Sundar and Ravichandran Ashwin. While Ashwin has a scintillating record at home and has picked up 254 wickets at an average of 22.80, Sundar’s heroics both with the bat and ball at The Gabba helps him to grab a spot. It is a known fact that the Chepauk track helps the spinners, and so I have gone in with left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav. The two pacers who should play are Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma. Ishant is the most experienced player in the current Indian side and has played 97 Test matches. And do we really need to justify Jasprit Bumrah’s selection?

My Playing XI: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Rishabh Pant (WK), Washington Sundar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.

Shuvaditya Bose, Sub-editor

Indian fans and cricket pundits are fortunate enough to face a selection dilemma ahead of the first Test against England, for it is not about whom to pick in the playing XI, but about whom to drop from the seemingly indispensable list of Indian cricketers. The primary cause of the conundrum will be whether to reward our young stars of the Australian series with a very justifiable place in the playing XI, or to bring the tried and tested men back into the fray. I’ve opted for the former. 

India picked up 59 wickets in the last 3 Test matches played on this track, 43 of which were picked up by spinners. Accordingly, I’ve included 3 spinners. Ravichandran Ashwin’s selection doesn’t require a justification while Washington Sundar has earned himself a long run in the Test side. Axar Patel might not be the biggest turner of the ball, but he is wily with his variations and can provide runs with the bat.

I’ve picked Shardul Thakur ahead of Ishant Sharma based on a combination of multiple factors. Firstly, he played well in the Australian series and should be high on confidence, while Sharma is coming from an injury. To add to that, Thakur should be perfectly acclimatized to the conditions, having played a lot of matches here for Chennai Super Kings. He also, as we have seen recently, is very adept with the bat. I also expect him to get some purchase off the track in the initial stages.

My playing XI – Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli (C), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur.

Prince Singh, Writer

Given the performance of India’s fringe players in Australia and the return of the incumbent names, picking an eleven for the first Test against England is a tough task. With so much depth in the squad at the moment, a number of deserving players will have to warm the bench. But then again, there is nothing much the players can do apart from making the opportunities count whenever they get any. Coming to my playing eleven for the series-opener, picking Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill as openers is a no-brainer.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane would be the automatic picks for the number three, four and five spots. For the number six spot, Rishabh Pant should get the nod after his heroics in Australia. India has usually preferred the experienced Wriddhiman Saha at home but it is high time that Pant gets a longer rope.

Washington Sundar will get my nod for the allrounder’s spot while the remaining four bowlers would be – Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma. The likes of Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur do make a compelling case for themselves but it would be unfair on other players to drop them just because they missed one series because of injury. 

My Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (VC), Washinton Sundar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma