Such is the quality stacked on both sides choosing early favourites for the series is no easy task.
As the two heavyweights get ready to collide on Wednesday, we take a look at the key players who could prove to be decisive.
JOE ROOT V VIRAT KOHLI
In Virat Kohli, India have a skipper who very much likes to lead from the front. While his exploits in limited-overs cricket were for all to see, Kohli has really turned it around when it comes to the Test format ever since he took over the captaincy in 2015.
Now, the superstar comes into the series as the top-ranked batsman currently active in international cricket. Even though he has his own demons to banish from his previous tour in 2014, especially with regards to James Anderson, Kohli will know that his performance with the bat could very much dictate the overall outcome of the series.
Root, on the other hand, has not had as successful a run as skipper as Kohli but his performances with the bat have stayed as consistent as ever. What does ail the England captain though, is his growing inability to convert his 50-plus scores into centuries in recent times.
Since his mammoth 254 against Pakistan at Manchester in 2016, Root has only managed to register three Test tons, a pitiful mark for a batsman who is ranked third in the ICC table behind Kohli. While his leadership abilities will be tested to the hilt, the focus will very much be on Root the batsman.
ADIL RASHID V RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN
The buildup to the Test series has been marred by the controversy created by Adil Rashid’s recall to the England squad. The leg-spinner has not played Test cricket since the end of 2016 before taking a self-imposed exile from red-ball cricket for Yorkshire.
His two leg-spinning rippers which dismissed Kohli in the ODI series is perhaps what persuaded chief selector Ed Smith to hand him a Test recall. It is a bold move from England with the risks being high but if he can keep toppling, it will be a highly rewarding one.
On the other hand, Ashwin’s pedigree with the red-ball is indisputable. With 318 Test wickets to his name at an average of approximately 25, the senior India spinner will fancy his chances of putting in a good showing in England.
He has further bolstered his experience of playing in English conditions by undergoing a county stint with Worcestershire last year. While Kuldeep Yadav’s ‘mystery’ will be a temping option for Kohli, Ashwin’s experience should make him the indisputable first choice in the spin department.
The 31-year-old’s mastery provides India the edge in the spin-department over the hosts.
STUART BROAD V ISHANT SHARMA
Ishant Sharma’s numbers in Test cricket are nothing to shout home about. Despite that, the lanky pacer has played 82 Tests for his country. He very much has the reputation of being an ‘unlucky’ bowler. On some days, he can bowl the most menacing of spells without picking up a wicket. On others, he can run through batting line-ups at will as his match-winning figures of 7-74 at Lord’s in India’s previous tour of 2014 showed.
The 29-year-old enjoyed a fruitful maiden county stint with Sussex earlier this summer and that experience should hold him in good stead for the series.
In Stuart Broad, England have an experienced veteran who can perfectly compliment James Anderson’s skills with the red-ball. With over 100 Tests and 400 wickets under his belt, Broad has been forging a successful partnership with Anderson for the best part of a decade.
However, his powers have been declining in recent times with just one five-wicket haul to his name since the turn of 2017. What he does love though, is bowling against India in England. In the nine Tests he has played against the opponents at home, Broad has picked up 44 wickets at an average of 17.79.
Sehwag, 39, was part of the Arabians squad that played in the 2017 edition but will now offer his expertise as a member of the coaching squad which includes ex-Pakistan fast-bowler Wasim Akram.
Franchise co-owners Parvez Khan and Ali Tumbi are delighted to rope in the 2011 World Cup winner, who amassed 16,000 international runs in his career.
“We had Virendra Sehwag playing for Maratha Arabians in its first season and this year he comes in as a batting coach. We are very happy to have India’s star player as our batting coach this year,” Khan was quoted as saying by TimesNow.
Tumbi added: “Sehwag understands the T10 format very well since he was a very crucial part of our team last year. We believe, his guidance & coaching to our young players will give us a very strong batting order.”
In last week’s Mini Draft in Dubai, Arabians strengthened their squad with the signings of top-ranked T20 bowler Rashid Khan, who will make his debut in the shortest format as well as West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.
They also acquired Australia pacer James Faulkner and Pakistan’s Kamran Akmal. They will finalise their roster in the main draft in Dubai on September 2.
Ahead of the opening game at Edgbaston, we have compiled our combined best starting 11 featuring some of the biggest names in world cricket:
Test matches: 57
The fact that the Indian management is in a dilemma between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul for the opening slot, tells you how highly rated Murali Vijay is. He scored his first overseas century on the 2014 tour with 146 at Trent Bridge and since then scored 11 half-centuries and eight tons including twice against England.
Test matches: 156
Got his fair share of criticism during the disappointing New Zealand tour in February where his top score was just 14. But his 70 against Pakistan in May showed how vital he still is to England. The former captain will be under pressure but given his extraordinary tally in this format, Cook should be more than capable of letting the bat do the talking.
Test matches: 69
The Yorkshireman has happy memories from the last time he faced India on English soil, top-scoring with 518 runs in the 3-1 series win. The spotlight will be on the 27-year-old captain, who will be keen to show why he is ranked third in the ICC ranking for Test batsman. His form has been impressive lately which bodes well for England’s chances.
Test matches: 66
The 29-year-old endured a miserable time in 2014 against England, averaging 13.40 in the five Tests. But the fact that he is now the second best batsman in the Test rankings shows how much he has improved in the space of four years. Has struck centuries on the tours of Australia, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa and given his extraordinary talent, there’s no reason why he can’t add to that list this time round.
Test matches: 42
Stokes didn’t score a single run in the India Test series in 2014. Back then, he was batting as one of the lower order players but gradually adopted an aggressive batting style that saw him promoted up the order to No6. Whether it’s with the white or red ball, Stokes has become a key figure in all formats and he can’t be overlooked.
Test matches: 54
Since taking over from Matt Prior behind the stumps, the Yorkshireman has made the wicket-keeper position his own. Having overcome a difficult start, Bairstow has improved dramatically and even at number seven in the line-up, he’s more than capable of reviving the innings or finishing the job if needed.
Test matches: 20
The 27-year-old looked set to make his mark at the Test level after scoring two half-centuries against India in the 2014 series. But it has been a rollercoaster ride for the wicket-keeper/batsman as he paid the ultimate price for his poor scores in the longer format. Yet, his showings in ODIs and T20s – especially in the IPL – saw him recalled for the Pakistan series in May and made the most of his opportunity with scores of 67 and 80.
Test matches: 58
He’s no longer in the ODI and T20 teams but his Test record speaks for itself. Has tormented batsmen on Indian wickets and his spell with Worcestershire – where he claimed 20 wickets in four matches – is a sign that more Test wickets could be on its way over the next six weeks.
Test matches: 118
There have been a few question marks over the future of the Nottinghamshire pacer but the 32-year-old has let the ball do the talking. Making his return after injury for Notts last week, Broad is set for his 119th Test cap and build on his six-wicket haul in Leeds Test against Pakistan.
Test matches: 138
It will be interesting to see how the 35-year-old fares having returned from a six-week rest following a shoulder injury. Having established himself as England’s all-time Test wicket-taker, the Lancashire man is one of the first names on the team sheet and selectors will be hoping for an encore from Jimmy who dismissed Kohli four times in 2014.
Test matches: 82
India have been unfortunate to lose pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the start of the series but in Ishant Sharma, they have someone who isn’t short of Test experience. Once he gets going, he can prove to be a handful and his stint for Sussex this summer will surely be beneficial.