DUAL INTERVIEW – 15 – India’s tour of England (1st Test preview)


Thank you for your participation in this dual interview, firstly tell us about your excitement with regards to the series and what are you looking forward to the most?

Sanchit – I am very excited for the upcoming series between India and England, perhaps never been this excited for an overseas tour in a long time. I am looking forward to watching how our senior players respond after the WTC Final and spending close to 40 odd days in the country, I am expecting the big names from the Indian side to put up big and consistent performances.

Sathya – Very Excited for India to win the series in England. Can’t wait to see Virat Kohli back in England firing. Looking forward to Mayank and Siraj performing.

The first test will be held in Nottingham, Trent Bridge, a venue where India had defeated England during the 2018 series, your thoughts on the conditions for that match?

Sanchit – Some good memories at Nottingham for Team India considering our last two tours (2014 and 2018), where we had a good batting show being displayed in 2014 and a complete all-round performance in 2018 on a typical English wicket. I am hearing the weather to be overcast with rain to play spoilsport, so expecting a lush green wicket to be provided for the first test match.

Sathya – A condition good for batting, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, like last time, should gaze them and obviously Bumrah’s redemption is awaited.

Shubman Gill looked decent during the WTC finals but unfortunately, an injury meant that he had to return home and miss the series, can Mayank Agarwal do the job with Rohit Sharma upfront for India?

Sanchit – Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma looked like a solid pair since the Australian tour, and it was also evident when the duo put up consistent 50+ partnerships quite regularly. It was really unfortunate for Gill to miss out due to an untimely injury after showing good promise against the moving ball in the WTC Final. Mayank Agarwal has had a decent WTC cycle batting with Rohit Sharma and scoring big runs for Team India in recent years, I feel this would be a major challenge for our openers considering the conditions in England and the context of the series.

Sathya – Mayank was our first choice opener before the Australia series. He surely can do the job well for us. All hopes are on Mayank now.

Is Cheteshwar Pujara’s form a concern for India?

Sanchit – I feel his form and his approach in this format might be a cause of concern for Team India. Since 2019, his strike rate dropped from hovering in the early 50s to 30-35 in the last two years with a batting average of close to 30 which is not ideal for a no.3 batsman. Team India might have another option in KL Rahul at no.3 or even Hanuma Vihari, so the pressure is high on Pujara to deliver well if he’s selected for the first test match in what could be his last English tour.
Our middle order looks solid on paper with the likes of Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pant and even Vihari (if he is included).

Sathya – It surely is, he is the pillar of the ICT lineup, his technique doesn’t allow him to score runs even if he stays there for a longer period. He needs to score some runs like before. I am backing him.

Our middle order looks solid on paper with the likes of Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pant and even Vihari (if he is included). Do you feel they can step up should the openers fail to give us a start early on?

Sanchit – On paper, I feel Team India’s middle-order has always looked strong in every format and I certainly believe they can step up after an early collapse. But with the Dukes ball tending to move around for the entire day, patience and grit needs to be taken as utmost importance and for that our senior players need to step up first and lead from the front, allowing the likes of Rishabh Pant to play free-flowing cricket down the order.

Sathya – Yes, if we look back, we can see our middle order has been a nightmare to bowlers, we need them to come back like before. If our middle order fails, it’s not possible to win the series. Hoping the long break has helped them.

Our strength not only lies in pace bowlers but also spinners, and we have two such quality spinners that can also contribute with the bat lower down the order. Do you see the Indian team going with both Ashwin and Jadeja in the first test against England?

Sanchit – I have always believed that a team should play their strongest XI with an ideal combination suiting their strengths in every condition. Ashwin and Jadeja are two of the best spinners in the world currently, and both are decent with the bat as well. Ashwin has improved massively in overseas conditions since 2018 and Jadeja averages close to 30 with the bat, which makes them an integral part of the Indian team especially in these conditions where the runs from lower-order prove out to be match-winning and also when the Dukes ball tends to grip well for the spinners because of its upright seam.

Sathya – Yes, in English summer, our spinners can be our key. Ash anna has shown some terrific magic before and can do it again. Ravindra Jadeja needs to bat well as well as clean up their tail.

When we see England’s squad, do they look as strong as they used to do 10 years ago? Has the white ball success affected the red ball performance in your view?

Sanchit – To be very honest, no. I feel they were a much better test cricket side 8-10 years ago mainly because of the likes of players that they had in their batting order. White ball cricket success has indeed impacted their red ball performance, both in good and bad ways. The Stokes heroics at Headingley would not have been possible without the “intent to win” mindset inherited from the white-ball side. Their bowling lineup is still as strong as ever, with the likes of Anderson and Broad still kicking on well even after all these years. Their batting is what might hold them back in this series.

Sathya – I still think their full power squad (with Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Johny Bairstow) is still a good team to beat in their home conditions. The thing is it’s a five-match series, each and every bit of their skills will be tested, unlike the two-match series. Beating them is still an achievement for Virat’s team.

Will they go with the same opening combination that is Rory Burns and Sibley or are you expecting any changes?

Sanchit – I am expecting Haseeb Hameed to be given a go in the first test match in place of Sibley, mainly because of how comfortable Hameed looked in the tour game against India a few days ago and also he was technically sound as well. Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.

Sathya – To start with, they will go with the same pair. It may change if they don’t perform. It’s their home series, so we can expect new lads to step in as well.

Root, Stokes, and Buttler. How vital are these three in the middle order for England in this format?

Sanchit – Joe Root is probably in the form of his life currently, and we’ve seen what he’s capable of doing at the top for England. Stokes and Buttler would be the returning duo for England after missing out during the New Zealand series, and they will be the vital cogs in the middle order which was seemed as weak during the New Zealand series in their absence.

Sathya – They are the same as our middle order trio. If they start performing consistently, then there’s no stopping their victory. They are very experienced and the best in English conditions. We need to crack them (and their strong tail too) in order to go for the win.

Are they lacking quality in the spin department since Adil Rashid isn’t included in the squad?

Sanchit – Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali’s absence was a subtle indication given by the host team to the visitors about the kind of pitch to be expected for the first two test matches, and it isn’t surprising at all. I would still say that quality exists in their spin bowling if needed in the form of Jack Leach who is a classical off-break spinner, who is quite consistent with his lines and length..something which the Indian batsmen found uncomfortable to bat against.

Sathya – Yes, kind of. But still, they play to their strength and use their pace force.

Their pace battery will be without Archer but they still have Woakes, Anderson, Broad and even the newcomer Ollie Robinson. Few words on their bowling with the current form?

Sanchit – Even without Jofra Archer, England’s bowling lineup is as lethal as it always was. Chris Woakes, James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be leading the pack along with the newcomer Ollie Robinson who had a decent outing vs New Zealand a couple of weeks ago. It will not be easy for the Indian batsmen to tackle them, especially with the conditions that would be provided in the initial tests. Also, we cannot disregard Ben Stokes who is known for his ability to get crucial breakthroughs for them.

Sathya – They say Anderson is in a dip, but I believe he is a man who can take the game away from the opposition in one good spell. Broad is the same. Woakes has been in good form. Ollie showed some promise. We need to take care of their pacers very carefully.

Who are the favourites to win the first test – England or India?

Sanchit – England starts off as the favourites, solely because of the home advantage and conditions favouring them.

Sathya – I back our army to give them a surprise. Even we can get a surprise from our batting unit.

What would the playing 11 be according to you?

Sanchit – Rohit, Agarwal, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pant, Jadeja, Ashwin, Ishant, Shami, Bumrah.

Sathya – Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma to open. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order (KL Rahul and Hanuma Vihari to replace after the second test if they fail) Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami to play all the games without getting injured.

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