India vs England: All Eyes on WTC Final Spot as India, England Prepare for Clash of Test Titans
A Test series between India and England is enough to the pulse of cricket fans racing even if one or both teams are experiencing mixed fortunes. However, with both sides looking like solid all-round Test units, the four-match series set to take place in India becomes must-see for cricket fans around the world. It also helps that the stakes for this series are a high, with both sides currently vying for a spot in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) at Lord’s. The first of those spots has already been taken by New Zealand, meaning both sides would be keen to make the most of these matches.
Interestingly, both sides are coming off Test series wins away from home. While England whitewashed Sri Lanka 2-0 in a two-Test series, India registered a second Test series win in Australia, including a first-ever Test win at The Gabba in Brisbane.
Both sides boast strong squads that are likely to be bouyed by returns. While England will be able to call upon the likes of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for this series, India will welcome back skipper Virat Kohli into the fold – as well as a few players like Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin whose time in the middle were cut short due to injuries.
It is hard to win a Test series in India without a strong spin bowling unit. The last time England won a series in India was 2012, when the likes of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann spun webs around a strong Indian batting line-up.
The likes of Dom Bess and Jack Leach don’t quite fall under the same class of spinner but both have demonstrated an ability to do a job in the longest format and will enjoy the assistance they will get from Indian tracks.
India will almost certainly start with Ashwin as the lead spinner but questions remain over who gets to partner him. Washington Sundar performed admirably with bat and ball in Brisbane but there’s also the Chinaman spin of Kuldeep Yadav to be called upon.
Axar Patel remains a left-of-field option but could be in for a shout if India want a left-arm spinner who can bat, similar to the role Ravindra Jadeja – who misses this series with a broken thumb – plays for the side.
Return of Crowds
While the first Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai will be played behind closed doors, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) have confirmed that plans are in place to bring back spectators for the second Test.
It’s also expected that fans will be attendance for the third and fourth Test at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, meaning this series could mark the return of fans to live sport since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
It remains to be seen how this will be pulled off – the expectation is to let in only 50% of the stadiums’ capacity to ensure social distancing measures remain in place.
However, the return of passionate fans after a massive series win Down Under would come as a morale boost for India. It would also be the first time England play in front of fans since the pandemic began.