Prior to the Test series opener between England and India scheduled to be played later on Wednesday, the hosts have received a major blow as middle-order batter Ollie Pope has been ruled out due to a thigh strain. Meanwhile, it is being learned that Jonny Bairstow, who had a horror run in the Test series in India earlier this year, is set to replace Pope in Nottingham. Earlier, all-rounder Ben Stokes had also decided to pull out of the India series to focus on his mental well-being.
Fresh reports emerging from England claim that Pope failed to clear his fitness test on Tuesday and hence has been declared unavailable for selection at least for the opening Test. England might go ahead with Dan Lawrence, who scored 81 in one of the Tests against New Zealand. However, with Stokes unavailable, the Three Lions are likely to back the experienced campaigner in Bairstow.
It should be noted that Bairstow registered three ducks in as many as four innings during the tour of India in Test matches. However, it could well be a different story this time around as the Test matches are set to be played in familiar English conditions where Bairstow might find it easier to rediscover his missing mojo in Test cricket.
Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal unavailable for India
Both the teams are dealing with injury concerns and fitness issues with opener Shubman Gill already ruled out of the entire series. Meanwhile, even Mayank Agarwal was declared unfit for the first Test after getting hit on the head during a practice session.
While the loss of Stokes is undoubtedly a huge one for England, captain Joe Root identified it as an opportunity for others to step up.
"In my opinion, there is no one who compares to Ben Stokes in world cricket. For a long time, he has very much been the heartbeat of this team. But that does present opportunities for others to step up and put a big performance. We have seen in the past the guys have been able to manage that. There have been times when we have been without Ben, and the likes of Sam Curran and Chris Woakes have come in," Root said at a press conference.