Arguably one of the biggest cricketing spectacles of this calendar year, England begin their four-match Test series against India on February 5 in Chennai.
Since the turn of the century, the England cricket team has struggled to get a stronghold in India, winning just one of the five Test series that they have played across two decades. Both India and England approach the series at the back of inspiring victories in the longest format, and the fact that the hosts will welcome their first choice players makes the first match even more exciting.
So without further ado, I give you four names who I think can put in a Man of the Match performance.
India cricket team captain Virat Kohli is approaching several records as he prepares for England. For instance, he is a mere 14 runs away from becoming the fourth-highest run-scorer as captain in the longest format. And given how prolific he has been at home, I don’t see him struggling for runs either.
The 32-year-old will be raring for a win as he is in line to become the most successful captain at home. Kohli has led India to 20 Test wins and a victory in Chennai will bring him on level with MS Dhoni, who has won 21 Test matches at home. After an underwhelming return by his standards in Australia, I expect Kohli to make a significant impact.
There’s no denying Joe Root’s excellence really. During the recent series win over Sri Lanka, England recorded their fifth consecutive overseas Test match win, and it is for the first time that the Three Lions achieved that feat since 1914. As for Root, I expect him to trouble the Indian bowling attack big-time - simply because of the form he is in - after he tallied 426 runs in four innings against Lanka.
The Chennai Test will be Root’s 100th Test match and he will look to better his already superior figures - he averages 54.13 in Asian conditions. What makes him an even bigger danger is his ability to take on spinners. Root has scored 584 runs in India in Test cricket and a whopping 77.57% of those runs have come against spinners.
Opener Rohit Sharma has smashed six centuries in Test cricket so far, and all of them have come at home. I guess that’s pretty much enough to lay down the threat he will bring. Sharma averages a massive 88.33 at home - a figure which is the second-best among the 314 batsmen who have scored more than 1,000 Test runs at home and is only bettered by Don Bradman. While Sharma was decent against Australia, there’s no denying the fact that he will be the one to watch against England at home. I’m expecting at least two centuries from the Indian opener.
Pitches in the subcontinent are spinners’ paradise, to say the least, and this makes England’s Dom Bess one to keep an eye on. As one can expect, the pitch in Chennai will provide little assistance to fast bowlers, and thus, I expect Joe Root to rely on Bess as well as Jack Leach for wickets.
Bess was England’s highest wicket-taker during their Sri Lanka series with 12 scalps. While his overall figures in Test cricket are decent, his record away from home makes him England’s trump card. In just four Test matches outside England, the 22-year-old has picked 20 wickets at an average of 23.05. Maybe it’s time to punt on an underdog.
Feature image courtesy: ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP