India’s three-day warm-up game against Essex has drawn to a close with the match ending in a tame draw.
The game at Chelmsford served as India’s only warm-up game before they take on hosts England in the five-match Test series that gets underway at Edgbaston on August 1.
With India testing almost the entirety of their 18-man squad in the warm-up game, we look at the ones who have staked a claim for a starting berth in the opening Test and others who might have written themselves out of contention.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has confirmed his credentials for taking the gloves in the opening Test with a fluent innings of 82 off just 95 in the first innings. With Wriddhiman Saha ruled out of the series, Dinesh Karthik is now the frontrunner to keep wickets for India with Rishabh Pant being the reserve option.
Although Karthik’s performance with the bat was more than up to the mark, his display with the gloves left a lot to be desired with the India man being guilty of dropping two chances at Chelmsford.
Still, his experience and showing with the bat means Karthik is now all set to play the first Test.
Like Karthik, KL Rahul has been trying to work his way back into India’s Test squad after being in and out of the side over the past year or so.
The stylish right-hander made a strong case for himself with a superb half-century under pressure in India’s first innings before following it up with an unbeaten 36 in the second. His form, coupled with Shikhar Dhawan’s struggles at the moment, could see the right-hander instated as the opener along with Murali Vijay for the first Test.
The all-rounder was always going to play a crucial part for India in the upcoming Test series due to his ability to provide another fast-bowling option. There have been question marks over Hardik Pandya’s suitability for the five-day format put he put some of those to rest with an excellent half-century in the first innings.
He did however, fail to impress with the ball after going for 54 runs in his 12 overs. Given that India could opt to go with a two-man spin attack owing to the prevalent weather conditions, Pandya should be a shoe-in for the playing XI as he provides the visitors with another pace option.
The fast-bowler has seen himself fall down the pecking order in India’s pace batter in recent times with the emergence of Jasprit Bumrah as a Test bowler. However, with injuries to Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav has automatically moved up in the pecking order.
If there were any doubts India had with regards to his red-ball form, they were quelled in the warm-up game with the pacer bagging four wickets in Essex’s first innings. Umesh and Ishant were the most impressive of India’s bowlers in the tie and the duo will almost certainly find a place in the pace battery – be it a two-man or three-man attack.
The opening batsman has not been in the best of forms of late and his latest display will throw further question marks over his ability to navigate the moving ball in England.
Shikhar Dhawan bagged a pair in the warm-up game after being castled for a third-ball duck on Friday. His failure in both innings will leave the Indian management in a dilemma on whether to drop him completely and replace him with Rahul or whether to accommodate both batsmen in the line-up. At the moment, the former is looking more likely.
Cheteshwar Pujara might have recently stated that the Indian team understands his importance to the side but his increasing failure to perform overseas does not bode well for the top-order batsman. The right-hander lasted just seven balls in the first innings at Chelmsford and was dismissed for only 23 in the second.
This comes after a monumental failure in red-ball cricket with Yorkshire in the County Championship. Pujara is definitely walking on a tightrope at the moment and the dreaded axe cannot be far away based on his latest showing.
Karun Nair’s triple century previously against England in India is perhaps the only reason he has been afforded another chance with the Test squad for the tour. The Karnataka batsman was dismissed for just four runs in the first innings after struggling against the swinging ball.
His hopes for a berth in the playing XI were bleak already but his performance at Chelmsford might have been the final nail in the coffin for the batsman.
With India struggling with injuries in the pace department, they really needed Mohammed Shami to come good in the practice game. The fast bowler has been out of action for some time now owing to his personal family issues and fitness concerns.
He was dropped from the squad for the one-off Test against Afghanistan after failing the Yo-Yo test but has been recalled to the squad owing to Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah’s injuries. In the 21 overs he bowled at Chelmsford, Shami went wicketless while struggling to generate rhythm with his bowling. India will now have take a call on whether to include Shami in a three-man pace attack or leave him on the bench in order to accommodate two spinners.
The off-spinner is understood to have taken a blow on his right hand during the team’s practice session. Following the injury, Ashwin did not come out to bat as India put up 395 runs on the board in their first innings after batting first at Chelmsford.
He did not come out to bowl too when Essex batted in their first innings during the second day before making a brief appearance on Friday.
The 31-year-old did bowl five overs of his off-spin on the third and final day as Essex declared their first innings at 359-8. Ashwin finished with figures of 0-21 from his five overs.
The extent of Ashwin’s injury is not yet known but it is one that will have the Indian team management on their toes, especially after injuries to key pacers.
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out of the first three Tests after aggravating a lower back injury during the final ODI between England and India at Headingley. He has since returned to India to step up his rehabilitation. On the other hand, pacer Jasprit Bumrah is facing a race against time to get fit for the Test series after he broke his thumb during the second T20 against Ireland at Dublin.
Bumrah has been named in the 18-man India squad for the first three Tests but he is expected to miss out the series opener at Edgbaston which gets under way on August 1.
The schedule for the six-team affair was released on Wednesday with India slated to play two back-to-back matches on September 18 and 19. The first of the two matches will see India take on a yet-to-be-decided qualifier, while the second will see them lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in Dubai.
In a discussion with India TV, the former India opener stated that the team would be better served by not participating in the tournament.
“I am really shocked to see the scheduling because which country plays back-to-back cricket matches these days? There was a gap of two days in between the T20 matches in England. But here here you are playing ODIs under hot Dubai weather without a break. So, I don’t think this is a correct scheduling,” Sehwag said.
“Pakistan will be in a good shape whereas the Indian players will be tired. And if we end up losing the match, then there might be a problem. We always want India to win against Pakistan but if the Indian players are tired then Pakistan will definitely have the advantage.
“Why there’s such hue and cry over playing the Asia Cup? Don’t play the Asia Cup. Prepare the team for the home series or the away series. It’s really difficult to play back-to-back games.”
Virat Kohli’s men are currently in England where they are preparing to take on the hosts in a five-match Test series. Their England tour is slated to culminate in the second week of September while the Asia Cup is scheduled to begin on September 15.