The eagerly anticipated five-match Test series between England and India is now just days away. The visitors have been hit with injuries to key pacers ahead of the series but the current weather prevalent in England will have their spinners licking their lips in anticipation.
The UK is experiencing its hottest summer in decades with an unprecedented heat wave which is expected to last till the end of August at least.
That means that the unusually dry weather will coincide with a major chunk of the Test series that begins on August 1 before culminating in the second week of September.
It has traditionally been pacers and seamers who have ruled the roost on the swinging green pitches of England in the summer but the spinners will be expected to play a much bigger role this time in keeping with the dry weather.
It is in that aspect that India will feel bullish about their chances with their three-man spin contingent brimming with quality.
The ever-dependable duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bring with them a wealth of experience and top-notch quality and with the addition of Kuldeep Yadav, the spin contingent is bearing a fearsome look ahead of the five Tests.
While Virat Kohli might have felt obliged to go with just one spinner in the bowling attack when planning ahead of the series months ago, the change in weather might now tempt him to opt for two.
It is safe to say that the India skipper will not be short of options should he opt to go with two spinners in any of the Tests given the world-class three operators at his disposal.
The same cannot be said of the hosts though, who are mulling over handing a Test recall to leg-spinner Adil Rashid after his displays in the recently concluded ODI series.
Their options in that department are so thin that they might be forced to turn to a man who turned his back on red-ball cricket after signing a limited-overs only contract with Yorkshire earlier this year.
Their only other options in the spin department are Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess and Jack Leach. Moeen endured a dismal time with the ball in England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat to Australia before being subsequently dropped after another poor showing in the Test series against New Zealand.
On the other hand, Bess showed plenty of potential in his Test debut against Pakistan recently but throwing the 21-year-old in the Test arena against India is full of risk and might not be the most sensible of decisions from the England management.
Leach was on course to start the Test series against Pakistan after playing one match in the tour of New Zealand but a freak injury while batting in the nets spoiled plans as Bess was handed a debut instead.
Given England’s woes in the spin department, Joe Root’s four-wicket burst in Yorkshire’s win over Lancashire in the Roses clash could not have come at a better time. The England Test skipper served a timely reminder of his off-spin prowess on Tuesday as he led Yorkshire to a 118-run victory with career-best figures of 4-5 in the second innings.
Root’s 19 wickets in 69 Tests might be nothing to shout about but his part-time off-spin might just be the little extra edge England might need to combat India in the series. England’s lack of depth when it comes to spin means that the hosts will in all probability line up with just one specialist spinner in the series and as such, Root’s off-spin could prove to be highly valuable asset.
While three of his four wickets in the Roses clash might have been tailenders, Root did account for the dismissal of the well set Jos Buttler too. He might not have the variations at his disposal that the likes of Ashwin possess but as Moeen Ali showed in 2014, India’s batsmen do have a tendency to get carried away against the spinners.
Moeen picked up 19 wickets in England’s 3-1 series win as India’s batsmen paid the price for trying to attack him at every opportunity.
The England skipper will be expected to notch up the big knocks in the series after his relative failure to get a century in the tours of Australia and New Zealand but it is with the ball that Root could give England what they lack against India.
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