England vs India, 5th Test Preview: Bazball's already a hit, but will India play ball?
There is little doubt that England will go for it, but it will be fascinating to see if their ultra-aggressive approach succeeds against the pace and prowess of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
Change is the only constant
It has been less than a year since the Indian contingent packed up and left following multiple COVID-19 positive cases in their camp with the fifth and the final Test match rescheduled, as the series stood at 2-1 in favour of India.
But, it could easily have been a decade ago, with both teams bearing a different look. Neither Chris Silverwood nor Ravi Shastri is head coach anymore, as is the case with captaincy, with Ben Stokes taking over from Joe Root and Virat Kohli passing on the mantle to Rohit Sharma.
Amid all this, the biggest talking point has been Bazball, centered around the sensational partnership between England head coach Brendon Mccullum and Ben Stokes. The manner in which England completed their 3-0 series win against reigning World Test champions New Zealand, chasing unprobable-seeming targets without breaking a sweat has certainly peaked excitement around the rescheduled Test match.
Many including Moeen Ali, who was part of the Test series last year, believe that India were on a roll at 2-1 and would have pocketed the final Test match at Old Trafford in all probability. However, things are a bit different now.
India, as was evident in the final of the World Test Championship last year, are a bit undercooked and are short of practice in the given set of conditions. England, on the other hand, seem like a totally transformed side with Jonny Bairstow batting like Don Bradman, and it will be tough for the Rohit Sharma-led side to get the better of England this time around.
Question marks over captain Rohit Sharma
That brings us to Indian captain Rohit Sharma who tested positive for the virus at the end of day 2 of their practice match against Leicestershire. The Indian camp is still hopeful of the captain recovering in time for the Test match.
If he doesn't, India are in for a headache. They are already short of an opening batter with KL Rahul having gone down with injury before the tour. The management recently had to call up Mayank Agarwal as a backup who can partner Shubman Gill at the top if Rohit does not recover in time. Cheteshwar Pujara is also an opening candidate.
Bumrah next in line
Then it's the captaincy muddle with vice-captain KL Rahul not available. Will the captaincy armband go to Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah or will Virat Kohli, who recently stepped down from captaincy, have to take up the job once again?
Bumrah seems to be the most likely one at the moment, that is of course if Rohit does not recover in time.
Ashwin or Thakur?
India will have Hanuma Vihari or Shreyas Iyer at No. 5, with Ravindra Jadeja playing as their leading spin bowling all-rounder. It will be interesting to see whether India go with Shardul Thakur as the fourth pacer or bring in Ravichandran Ashwin, who has himself recovered from COVID-19 recently.
Of course, it depends on the nature of the pitch on offer in Edgbaston as well as the weather. There is a chance of rain on the first three days of the Test match, but not enough to threaten a result.
Anderson likely to replace Overton
England will make only one change to their XI which took the field against New Zealand in the Leeds Test. Jamie Overton, who starred with a 136-ball 97 on debut, is likely to make way for James Anderson as the side would not like to touch Jack Leach given that he recently claimed his maiden 10-wicket haul.
England do have the edge going into the match and have a great chance of bringing the bottomline to 2-2. Whatever the result turns out to be, England's newfound approach against the quality of India will certainly make for fascinating viewing.
Predicted Playing XIs
India - Mayank Agarwal/Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Hanuma Vihari/Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur/Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
England - Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Sam Billings (wk), Matty Potts, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson
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