India's Test specialists need to do the heavy lifting during England series

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Murali Vijay (l) and Ishant Sharma.

It seems obvious. Test match specialists need to perform whenever they get a chance as there are only so many five-day matches in a year. Miss your chance and you many have to wait months before your next shot at redemption.

But the situation the current Indian team finds itself in means Test specialists in the side simply have to pull their weight as quite a few all-format stars are either injured or struggling for form.

India are sweating over the fitness of all-format pace spearheads Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah ahead of the first Test against England.

Their respective back and finger injuries are a lot more serious than previously thought or revealed. White-ball star Shikhar Dhawan bagged a pair in the warm-up match against Essex.

Virat Kohli has scored more than 20 in all innings so far in England during this tour but his woeful run in Tests in 2014 where he averaged less than 14 will be at the back of his mind.

Regular wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha is injured which means limited overs specialist Dinesh Karthik will wear the gloves.

Which leaves us with the a bunch of players who are now Test specialists. Starting at the top, opener Murali Vijay looks like the one player who can be backed to occupy the crease for a considerable period. His fifty in the warm-up match was a relief to the management as Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara failed.

Ajinkya Rahane, a Test batsman for now after failed attempts to integrate him in the ODI team, has even more responsibility on his shoulders as he tries to ease the pressure on Kohli.

THE BOWLERS

The bowling department is where it gets tricky. With Bhuvi and Bumrah uncertain, it’s Ishant Sharma who leads the pace attack with Mohammed Shami as the next best option irrespective of conditions. Both are now limited to five day cricket.

Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav was so devastating in one T20 and one ODI against England that he forced his way onto the Test set-up. But rationally speaking, Test veteran Ravi Ashwin – with more 300 scalps under his belt plus four Test tons – remains streets ahead of Kuldeep in red ball cricket.

The weather in England is dry this time, which means spin will be a factor and Ashwin’s experience in such conditions will be invaluable.

Sure, players like KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya and Umesh Yadav can play a big role – depending on the opportunities they get – but the India management will be hoping for the Test regulars to do what they do best and allow the more flamboyant all-format players to provide the impact.

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England-India Test series 2018: Where and when to watch matches in the UAE

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India and England are all set for a five-match Test series. The first Test begins in Birmingham on Wednesday with top-ranked India locking horns with fifth-placed England.

Virat Kohli‘s Indian team have to contend with injuries to their best fast bowlers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah – while England will have to tackle an unusually warm English summer which means spinners will have a big role to play.

Below is the schedule of what should be an exciting series. All time for UAE.

INDIA’S TEST TOUR OF ENGLAND

August 1, 2018

14:00 First Test in Birmingham (beIN Sports)

August 9, 2018
14:00 Second Test in London (beIN Sports)

August 18, 2018
14:00 Third Test in Nottingham (beIN Sports)

August 30, 2018
14:00 Fourth Test in Southampton (beIN Sports)

September 7, 2018
14:00 Fifth Test in London (beIN Sports)

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Ajinkya Rahane confident Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara will rise to challenge

David Clough 30/07/2018
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Ajinkya Rahane (r) and Cheteshwar Pujara.

India insist they retain full faith in out-of-form batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara to deliver when it matters most against England.

If selected for the first Test at Edgbaston on Wednesday, opener Dhawan will take guard after two ducks in India’s only warm-up match against Essex – while Pujara has mustered an average of only 14.33 from 12 innings in his County Championship reconnaissance mission with Yorkshire.

Their fellow batsman Ajinkya Rahane is not admitting to any undue concerns about either, however.

“We are not worried at all, because both are really quality batsmen,” he said. “It just takes one good innings to get into your rhythm. We all back them.”

Rahane, who first toured England in 2011 with India’s white-ball team and returned four years ago in all three formats, is well aware of the adaptability required here.

“Playing in England is always a challenge … (but) if you think about the result you put pressure on yourself,” he added.

“This time we just want to express ourselves. Personally I enjoy those challenges, playing abroad.

“You know here in England the ball does a bit, in Australia there’s bounce, again in New Zealand the ball does a bit … I’m really looking forward to this series.”

Captain Virat Kohli suffered a rare blip in his prolific run-scoring on India’s last Test tour, averaging a paltry 13.4.

Rahane’s advice for the collective this time is to stay true to themselves, and make the most of each opportunity.

“As a batting unit, I feel that challenging yourself and backing your own game – rather than copying someone else – is important,” he said. “If you’re set here, you should really make it count.

“I feel that in terms of skill, both teams are on a par. It will be a test of our mind and character here.”

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