New Delhi: Indian skipper Virat Kohli will look to Australia’s Steve Smith atop the ICC Test rankings for batsmen during the five-Test series beginning in Birmingham on Wednesday.
Kohli trails Smith, who is currently serving a 12-month ban for his role in ball tampering, by 26 points and will have to produce a string of strong performances to leapfrog the Australian.
Kohli had a miserable tour of England in 2014 but should the Indian skipper do well with the bat this time around, he could leapfrog Smith to the top of the rankings.
England and India begin an eagerly-anticipated five-match contest with what will be England’s 1,000th men’s Test of all time at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
India last won a series in England in 2007, under Rahul Dravid (that too after a 21-year-long gap). Since then, they were whitewashed 0-4 in 2011 and 1-3 (losing the last three Tests) in 2014, both under MS Dhoni.
England captain Joe Root and India skipper Virat Kohli are two of the world’s leading batsmen and their ability to inspire team-mates rests largely on their ability to lead from the front through weight of runs rather than exceptional tactical ability in the field.
Both men will have a point to prove with the bat this series.
Root has converted only three out of 23 fifties since his Test-best 254 against Pakistan in 2016 into hundreds — a poor return for a player of his class — while Kohli is looking to improve his record in England after scoring just 134 runs in five Tests on his maiden tour of the country four years ago.
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is a proven world-class bowler with 316 Test wickets at 25.34 but just three of those wickets have been taken in England.
If Ashwin does start, however, India will look to him for control as a gruelling schedule of five matches in six weeks could well take its toll on the fast bowlers, with the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah already injured.
England will want the same from leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who has been recalled for his 11th Test but first at home.
It will be fascinating to see if Rashid can put the row behind him, especially as the only spin support he is set to receive at Edgbaston will come from Yorkshire team-mate Root’s occasional off-breaks.
India squad for 1st Test: Virat Kohli (c), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav
England XI for 1st Test (announced): Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler (wk), Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
Start Time: 3:30 PM (IST).