It’s no rocket science that the Indian bowling line-up isn’t the best in the world. A bowling line-up that shuttered against an English county side in their practice match might not be the most encouraging news for Indian fans worldwide.
It’s safe to say that bowling isn’t India’s strongest asset going into the England tour but in order to win a test match a team needs to pick up 20 wickets. Going by the performance of the Indian bowling in the previous few series it looks very unlikely that the system of 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers will help India win against the formidable English side who are eagerly looking for a comeback after their Sri Lankan debacle.
So let’s for the sake of argument assume the fact that M.S Dhoni would be going into the England series with 5 bowlers. At present, M.S. Dhoni has Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami, Ishant Sharma, R.Ashwin, Stuart Binny and Ravindra Jadeja as his bowling options. The England pitches will certainly have more bounce and pace compared to dry and spinning Indian pitches. Playing two spinners will be highly unlikely in such cases.
Having said that, the opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir seem like the most likely opening pair for the Indians. Dhawan’s fearlessness and Gambhir’s experience add stealth to the Indian batting. Cheteshwar Pujara is a certain at #3 and Virat Kohli will be bossing the #4 spot in the batting Line-up.
M.S Dhoni will complete the fixed spots in the team line-up for the batsmen at #5 with the undecided quota starting from this point on. Stuart Binny is one option who can bat at the #6 spot but his inexperience in tests is still a worry but his recent performance in Bangladesh might just result in him getting a push in the test side.
Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma could feature in the line-up in case Stuart Binny or Ravindra Jadeja make the side as a 5th bowling option only. The fact that Ashwin has proven his stability as a batsmen in the test arena with an astonishing average of almost 40 which includes 2 centuries and 3 half centuries, it’s really hard to overlook him.
So in all probability, this is the most likely starting 11 for the Indian side in the first test against England.
Starting XI – Dhawan, Gambhir, Pujara, Kohli, Dhoni, Binny, Jadeja, Ashwin, Shami, Bhuvneshwar, Ishant Sharma
This starting XI would result in the likes of Vijay, Rahane and Rohit Sharma facing the axe or in the reverse case, one or two of those in that line-up facing the axe. A lot depends on the pitch conditions and the team combination that M.S Dhoni prefers but one thing is for sure, it’ll not be the easiest decision for the Indian captain.