The much-awaited 5-match Test series between England and India is just a few days away and there is already a lot of excitement. Going to England and defeating them at their home has never been an easy task for any team, especially India. Since the incredible series win in 2007, India have had to face heavy losses in 2011, 2014 and 2018. But there is a different feeling to it all together this time around.
Cricket experts have termed this series as India's best opportunity to beat England at their own backyard, considering the balance of two sides. Virat Kohli's team have been in top form in the longest format of the game in last couple of years, having also defeated Australia at their home. With 2021-23 World Test Championship set to kickoff with this series, India would hope to begin with a historic series win in the UK.
While the visitors will certainly be required to be at their absolute best, let's take a look at the five Indian players who will have to play a key role if India are to conquer England again after 14 years.
1. Rohit Sharma
Hitman has undoubtedly been one of the most important players for India in white-ball cricket in last few years. Slowly and steadily, Rohit Sharma has become the vital cog at top of the order in Tests as well. Although the 34-year-old has only played 29 Tests so far, he has scored 2679 runs at an impressive average of 46.2, justifying the expectations on his shoulders.
Although he has struggled against swinging deliveries in past, Rohit looked quite comfortable at the crease during the WTC Final reflecting the fact that he has certainly worked on his technique. Often being termed as someone who scores only at home, he has an opportunity to silence his critics and come up with some big knocks to guide India to a historic series win.
2. Ravichandran Ashwin
A spinner is never considered as game changer in overseas conditions, unless he is Ravichandran Ashwin. The off-spinner has 413 wickets to his name in 79 Tests and is one of the best in the business. Although he won't get too much assistance from the wickets in England, he is quite street-smart and intelligent to extract something from those pitches with his armoury of variations.
Ashwin gave a glimpse of his class when he turned up for Somerset in a County game ahead of the series, where he scalped a brilliant five-wicket haul. Apart from his bowling, Ashwin's batting down the order is also going to be very important for India in challenging English conditions. If the all-rounder can come up with some brilliant performances in this series, the hosts might find themselves in lot of trouble.
3. Rishabh Pant
The explosive Indian wicketkeeper faced a major setback when he contracted coronavirus few days back. However, much to the delight of all the fans, Rishabh Pant has completed his recovery and is set to be available from the first match. The southpaw has proven to be the difference for India in recent times with his incredible stroke-play in the middle order.
In 21 Tests so far, Pant has scored 1403 runs at an impressive average of 43.8. He played a crucial role during India's historic series win down under and will be required to be at his explosive best once again if Virat Kohli's side have to replicate the success in England.
4. Mohammed Shami
The right-arm pacer is going to be the most important bowler for India in swinging English conditions. Mohammed Shami was the most impressive player in WTC Final 2021 against New Zealand where he scalped 4 wickets in the first innings. He is going to be the leader of pace attack with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah not in the best of forms coming to the series.
With 184 wickets to his name in 51 Tests, all hopes will be on Shami who is a genuine swing bowler and can extract the most out of the conditions in England. He has worked on his fitness in last few months and would be raring to dismantle the batting order of Joe Root's side over the course of next few days.
5. Virat Kohli
The Indian captain will need to lead from the front if India are to win the series in England. Although Virat Kohli has had a long century drought in last couple of years, he has still looked in decent touch whenever he has come out to bat. He played an impressive 44-run knock in the first innings against New Zealand in the WTC Final 2021.
The 32-year-old has some incredible numbers to his name where he has amassed 7547 runs at an average of 52 in 92 Tests. However, he might have to better his own stats in the Test series where he will be up against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Can he lead his side to a famous series win? All Indian fans would hope so!