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India vs England, 2021: 6 Players to watch out for in the Test series

So the stage is set for two of the finest Test-playing nations – India and England – to battle it out in a four-match Test series, starting February 5 with the initial two matches scheduled to take place in Chennai, and the remaining in Ahmedabad.

Since 2012, India and England have been at the crossroads on 19 occasions, with the former getting an upper hand on 7 occasions, the latter on 9 occasions, and the remaining 3 matches ending up as draws. And incidentally, the last series that India lost at home was against England in 2012-13, where the visitors scripted a 2-1 triumph.

The Men in Blue toughened up a post that defeat, as they registered a total of 17 wins in the whites until the Pune Test against Australia in February 2017, which was again a one-off defeat before a number of wins for the Men in Blue began.

Since March 2017, India have been clearly invincible at home. Out of 14 Test matches, Team India has sealed a win in 11 Tests, and are currently on an 8 consecutive winning streak, with the last four being victories by an innings margin.

Meanwhile, England are in good nick as well. They have won their last three-Test series (2 at home, 1 away) including the recently concluded tour of Sri Lanka, where they beat the hosts by 2-0 on fairly turning tracks in Galle. Some of their star players namely Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, who had missed the Sri Lanka series, have been added to the squad for the encounters against India.

With the sides all geared up for the clash royale in Chennai and then Ahmedabad, let us take a look at some of the key players in the forthcoming Test series between India and England.

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli (Image Source: ICC)

Arguably, one of the most complete batsmen among the current generation of cricketers, Kohli averages a mammoth 68.42 in 60 Test matches played at home. And when it comes to England, he has smashed 843 runs in 9 Tests at an average of 70.25, including a gigantic knock of 235 at Wankhede during the 5-match series in 2016-17, where he eventually finished with a tally of 655 runs under his belt.

The Delhi cricketer had an off run with the bat in 2020. And although he played only three matches, he could amass only 116 runs at an average of 19.33, with only one major knock being the 74 off 180 deliveries at Adelaide Oval.

With the World Test Championship (WTC) final approaching and India having a great chance to occupy a spot for the showdown, it is about time Kohli gets back his rhythm in the longest format.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin (Image Source: BCCI/Twitter)

His spin wizardry will be of utmost concern for the touring English side as he could single-handedly rattle their batting order, something the off-spinner has done time and again versus any visiting side. An experience of 74 Tests and 377 wickets, along with the distinction of being the fastest Indian cricketer to take 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 and 350 wickets in the purest format speaks volumes of his success in the longest format.

he was the highest wicket-taker in the 2016-17 series against England, picking 28 wickets in 5 matches at an average of just over 30. And overall when up against the English side in India, the Tamil Nadu-born has scalped 42 wickets in 9 matches. And not just with the ball, he has struck numbers with the bat – 549 runs comprising 6 half-centuries and an impressive average of 49.91.

At M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Ashwin has picked 13 wickets in 2 matches at an average of 31.15, including 2 five-wicket hauls in an innings and a ten-for, with 7/103 as best bowling figures. So, one can expect how unnerving he could be for England if he gets both his bat and ball to talk.

Also Read: 3 Legendary Test bowlers who failed with their performance in India

Shubman Gill

Shubman Gill (Image Source: Express Photo, Jasbir Malhi)

Gill couldn’t have asked for a better Test debut than the one he received in the MCG Test during the concluded Border-Gavaskar series. Batting in the Boxing Day Test with India 1-0 down in the series, Gill struck a counter-attacking 45 in the first innings and then chased the 70-run target on the final day with an unbeaten 35 off 36 deliveries to steer India to a historic victory that helped the visitors level the series at 1-1.

He then struck his first half-century, a well-fought 50 in the third Test at SCG, and followed with a knock for the ages – 91 off 162 deliveries, a performance that set the foundation for the breach of their fortress while chasing a 329-run target in the Gabba Test.

Ahead of the Test debut, the Punjab-born had compiled a ton of runs in the first-class cricket and the exposure that he had received from the same was quite visible from the gameplay he exhibited in each of the innings. Gill eventually finished the series as one of India’s highest run-getters with 259 runs at an average of 51.80.

In the Test series against England which is about to unravel again, Gill would be up against another quality bowling lineup – James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer in the pace department. And a spin trio comprising Moeen Ali, Dom Bess and Jack Leach – challenges that he would love to savor.

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Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The Delhi-born has shown the cricketing fraternity what he could inflict if allowed the license to hit.

Batting against an attack comprising Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon, Pant scripted two fifty-plus tallies – a counter-attacking 97 at SCG to save the Test match, and 89* in the Gabba Test to beat Australia by 3-wickets and with that, India became the first touring side to have breached Australia’s fortress in the last 33 years.

Posting mammoth runs in the fourth innings of a Test match might sound daunting for many cricketers but not for Pant. He averages a whopping 87.00 in the five innings that he has batted in the fourth innings of a Test and aggregated 348 runs at an aggressive rate of 73.26, including a hundred and two fifties.

Pant shut his critics for a good amount of time courtesy of his performances with the willow in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21. Heading into the India-England Test series, it’s not just his batting that will hold the key for an Indian victory, it’s also his keeping abilities that will have their share of responsibility.

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Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes (Image Source: Getty)

Last year went exceptionally well for Stokes in red-ball cricket as he churned some of his best numbers, scoring 641 runs in 7 Tests at an average of 58.27, including match-winning knocks of – 120 against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, and 176 against West Indies in Manchester. With the ball, the right-armer picked 19 wickets while averaging less than 19.00 and at a career-best strike rate of 39.68.

He has been an X factor for the England cricket team since his arrival in international cricket. Someone who thrives on the saying – ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man.’

The last time he toured India was in 2016-17, where he scored 345 runs at an average of 38-plus, with a century in the first Test followed by a half-century in the second Test. Also, he picked 8 wickets, including a five-wicket haul in Mohali. His career has skyrocketed post that tour and it could be a challenge for the Indian attack if he’s allowed to cement his position at the crease.

An absolute match-winner on his day, the visitors would be rooting for another Stokes’ show to create the chance of beating India on their own turf.

Also Read: 7 Indian cricketers whose Test centuries never came in a losing cause

Joe Root

Joe Root (Image Source: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images for Surrey CCC)

Root has been on a roll since the start of 2021, clobbering back-to-back tons against Sri Lanka in Galle, leading the side with a whopping 426 runs in the two-Test matches, to eventually being awarded as the Player of the Series. Spinner friendly conditions don’t trouble him much, as he has enjoyed batting in the subcontinent from the time of his red-ball debut.

Root has a stupendous record against India in whites. The Yorkshire cricketer has scored over 1400 runs in 16 Tests at an average of 53.08, with 4 hundreds and 9 fifties. In India itself, he has got close to 600 runs including a century and 5 half-centuries.

The right-hander had a productive run with the bat on the previous tour in 2016-17, where he top-scored for England with 491 runs, which comprised a hundred and four fifties, including a knock of 88 in the final match in Chennai.

This time around, it’s not the just runs with the willow that he would be concerned about, it’s also the team’s results, considering the English side have four successive series, and what better opportunity than now for the visitors to recreate 2012-13 series win.

Also Read: 4 Legendary Test batsmen who failed to deliver their potential in India

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V Shashank
A cricket aficionado who has been following the game since the historic Ashes 2013-14. "People throw stones at you, you turn them into milestones." - Sachin Tendulkar


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