Birmingham Test: Tough challenge awaits Rohit-Dravid duo against a bold England

New Delhi: A lot has changed in Indian cricket set-up since their fifth Test against hosts England was cancelled last year because some of the visiting side members tested Covid positive.

The series, which started with Virat Kohli as skipper and Ravi Shastri as chief coach, will now conclude with Rohit Sharma as captain and Rahul Dravid to do Shastri’s job.

On the other hand, England will also have a new coach and captain duo of Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes, who replaced Chris Silverwood and Joe Root in their respective roles.

One more difference between last year and now is that teams no longer have to live in a biosecure bubble, which will be a big relief for cricketers.

The then Virat Kohli-led side left England in October with a 2-1 lead, and Rohit will now have the responsibility to make it 3-1 or draw the game to win the series, which will be a tough ask, given that England are playing a new brand of attacking cricket.

This will also be the first time both Rohit and Dravid would be seen together on foreign soil with such major roles. Notably, Dravid had his first foreign tour as a coach in South Africa but Rohit missed the series due to injury.

The Indian team led by Rohit is currently playing a warm-up game against Leicestershire in England and the Day 1 of the four-day match was not great for India, especially for top-order batters.

Rohit (25) once again got out playing the hook shot, while Shubman Gill, who got a start but departed for 21 and Iyer, who endured a first-ball duck, edged while playing away from their bodies. On the other hand, Kohli’s outside edge looked suspect before he was beaten on the inside edge.

It was reserve wicket-keeper KS Bharat (70 not out), who led India’s recovery and took them to 246/8 at stumps on Day 1 of their practice match on Thursday. India would want to finish the ongoing warmup game on a high to get some confidence ahead to the crucial tie.

The practice match, followed by the Test, will also give under-pressure Kohli an opportunity to overcome a lengthy struggle for consistency. His century drought has stretched past 100 games across all forms of cricket, including the IPL.

The much-awaited Test match between India and England will start on July 1 in Birmingham, will not have injured KL Rahul and it will be interesting to see who will open and what will be the line-up Dravid plans. It is believed that Gill can open with Rohit Sharma, as they did in the practice match.

Just to add on, none of the current India batter in the Test side has had a ‘great’ season in the recently concluded IPL 2022. It’s often considered wrong to make a comparison between the two different formats. But experts believe players do get confidence if they had played a better tournament ahead of any major match.

For the record, India have not played a Test match since March, when they dominated Sri Lanka at home with a 2-0 series win. Barring Pujara and Gill, none of the Indian players have played any red-ball cricket since, with the majority of the rest featuring in IPL 2022 followed by the home T20I series against South Africa.

Cricket pundits would want to see what magic Rohit and Dravid dig out in their first foreign tour. The planning and execution would be important because England will look to end the series on a winning note since their pride is at stake.

Under Stokes and McCullum, England are playing a new brand of cricket with domination, which was pretty much visible in their thrilling wins over New Zealand at Lord’s and Trent Bridge. So, definitely, they will produce some tough challenges for India.

After the end of the washed out fifth T20 match of the series against South Africa, Dravid was asked about England’s new approach and he also admitted that they are playing some good matches against New Zealand.

“Playing a Test match in England is always a good experience. The audience is going to be fantastic. When you play Test cricket there you expect really good spectator numbers in England. The England team is also playing well. This is a slightly different situation now, when we were there last year when England were probably on the backfoot but they have played some good matches against New Zealand,” he said.

India’s squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Srikar Bharat (wk).

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