When India take on England in the first Test match on Wednesday, India’s biggest worry will be its bowling line up and amongst that dilemma the Indians will need to figure out, what to do with Stuart Binny?
The youngster has pulled off some good performances in the last six months and seems to be the right choice to get a spot in the team, but with the specialist batsmen firing, it does not look likely that he will replace a batsman.
That leaves captain M S Dhoni with two options.
The first being that he replaces him with Ravindra Jadeja.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the cricket-watching fraternity in India has divided itself over this issue.
While some believe that Binny is the right choice considering the conditions, the others argue that Jadeja’s experience in the past, clubbed with his batting abilities put him in a better position to be picked over Binny.
Jadeja was a key member in the team that won the ICC Champions Trophy in England and was the leading wicket taker as well.
This makes him a more suitable and easier choice than Binny.
The second option at Dhoni’s disposal is to put Binny in the side ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin.
This represents a huge gamble as Ashwin is considered to be the strength of the Indian spin bowling department.
Putting that considerations aside, he has not contributed a significant amount in the last year or so and if the conditions are taken into account, it appears that Binny’s inclusion will gather momentum.
Pair that with Binny’s ability with the bat and his case for a starting spot strengthens even more.
The question however remains, will Dhoni take the risk on Binny?
Or will we see the talented young Binny sit out the series opener altogether?
India know they have an opportunity to extend England captain Alastair Cook’s miserable run of form this summer.
But Virat Kohli, the poster boy of the tourists’ line-up, has more pressing issues on his mind as he prepares for his first Test series in England beginning tomorrow.
He knows a Test tour of England can be a defining experience for the best of the sub-continent’s batsman – and to that end, Kohli has been listening intently to the advice of Rahul Dravid, the India great recruited as a consultant until the start of the five-Test series.
Kohli is well aware too that, if India can make Cook wait for his next hundred – England’s most prolific centurion has not made one for more than a year – then they will have taken a big step towards making up for their 4-0 whitewash defeat here three years ago.
Cook travelled subsequently to India, leading England to a follow-up win there for the first time since 1984-85 and making a mountain of runs in the process.
“He was batting brilliantly when he came to India, and he made full use of that,” said Kohli. “Obviously, right now, things have been pretty difficult for him. Everyone goes through that phase where they don’t score runs – but because he has the captaincy as well, that might be troubling him a little more.”
India are wary of a backlash, and determined to keep Cook down.
“We know he’s a quality player and he can come back at any time,” added Kohli.
“We would like to keep him under pressure… because the English batting has revolved around him for the last few years.
“He’s going to be a big player in this series, and we’d like to get him early to get the momentum.
“When he bounces back, he scores big hundreds – so we have that in mind as well.
Kohli himself will prize runs this summer especially highly.
At 25, he is considered by many as the outstanding India batsman of the post-Tendulkar generation.
“This is right up there with (a tour of ) South Africa, Australia, New Zealand,” he said. “I would say these are the four places where the sub-continent players do want to perform well and do target.
“I too have that in my mind… it is a pretty special place to play cricket.
“I’ll be playing a Test at Lord’s for the first time, so (it’s a) very exciting tour for me personally. I have some goals I want to achieve, and I have been thinking about them. This is right up there with the toughest venues for sub-continent players.”
Kohli will be putting out of his mind much of what happened on India’s last tour here – he played only in the limited-overs matches – but will be taking Dravid’s advice on board.
“A guy who played brilliantly in that series is mentoring us right now, speaking about his experiences – Rahul Dravid,” added Kohli.
“That’s a big plus. He’s spoken about the experiences he’s had in England, scoring those hundreds and what he felt getting those runs in tough conditions.
“That’s all you need as a batsman – getting into a player’s head who’s done it all here, and getting into that zone yourself. It helps big time.”
They might not have played here before, but Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are being talked of as the meat in the Indian batting line-up, and the two wickets that every bowling unit is targeting.
Kohli said he and Pujara are conscious of that, but don’t want to let expectations weigh them down.
“I think it is more important what we expect of ourselves,” Kohli said.
“Obviously, people will expect things when you start performing, but you can’t focus on that. Because then, firstly you put pressure on yourself, and secondly you drift away from what you want to do.
"If you think of what you expect from yourself, you stick to your plan. We’d rather stick to that.”
Cheteshwar Pujara demonstrated his well-being for next week’s first Test as India recovered well from early losses on day two of their final warm-up match against Derbyshire yesterday.
Two wickets in five balls for Mark Turner and first-team debutant Ben Cotton left India 18 for two, in reply to 326 for five at the County Ground. But a characteristically unhurried Pujara (81) gradually took control in stands of 63 with Virat Kohli and 119 with Mahendra Singh Dhoni – before all-rounder Stuart Binny (81no), uncapped at Test level, consolidated as India were able to declare at stumps on 341 for six.
The tourists appeared to show their hand for the five-Test series against England, with no place for Gautam Gambhir in the top six.
Turner was significantly the most experienced of the home seam attack on the middle day here, and he was the first wicket-taker too – trapping Murali Vijay (six) lbw on the back foot.
Turner’s new-ball partner Cotton made an impressive start and was rewarded in a spell of 8-4-6-1 with the wicket of India’s other opener Shikhar Dhawan – who pushed forward and edged behind to also exit for six.
It took Kohli 10 balls to get off the mark, with a single to cover off Cotton.
India’s poster boy had a moment of concern on 18 when in the first over from Greg Cork, teenage son of former England bowler Dominic, he edged low but marginally short of Chesney Hughes at slip.
There were no further concerns as India’s third-wicket pair closed out the morning, but Kohli did not last long after lunch.
Twenty-year-old Cotton, back for more, struck again and bagged a highly-prized scalp too as Kohli (36) tried to leave a tight line but instead chopped the ball down on to off-stump.
Dhoni (46) surprisingly promoted himself to number five to good effect, as his unorthodox attacking style proved an ideal complement to Pujara.
But he took one liberty too many with David Wainwright, who deceived the India captain in the flight to bowl him leg-stump with the batsman on the charge.
Pujara then promptly retired himself out, for the second match in succession after doing so for 57 at Leicester last week.
It therefore fell to Ravindra Jadeja and Binny to push for parity or better and they succeeded.