England in India: It is ‘Bazball’ against India spinners for 5-match Test series on turning tracks


Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates the wicket of England's Ben Duckett during Day 1 of 1st Test match, at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Thursday (ANI)

India’s stalwart batter Virat Kohli was crowned as the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year for 2023 on Thursday

Our Bureau

England’s ‘bazball’ is set to face its biggest challenge as they gear up to face India in a five-match series on likely spinning surfaces here. India skipper Rohit Sharma already stated that the way England plays isn’t their concern but the story of the five-match series will be ‘Bazball’ against spin.

The last time England ended with a series win on Indian soil was in 2012 when Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen batted to perfection but the series fell in the visitors’ favour because of Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann and James Anderson’s heroics with the ball.

Since then only Australia managed to almost draw a Test series on Indian soil in 2016/17. While the spin against ‘Bazball’ will unfold, India batter Shubman Gill will find himself in the spotlight as he looks to establish himself in the No. 3 spot, which belonged to Cheteshwar Pujara till 2023.

The first Test from Thursday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad is marking the beginning of a new dawn in the history of Indian Test cricket. The hosts are appearing in a Test match without Kohli, Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane in their playing XI for the first time since November 2011.

India’s wicketkeeper scenario will also be a talking point after head coach Rahul Dravid confirmed that KL Rahul won’t be taking the role behind the stumps.

KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel are the two players who can take the role behind the stumps, but Rohit during the pre-match press conference didn’t reveal who could fill in the empty spot.

During the series, a couple of milestones are also on the cusp of breaking with Ravichandran Ashwin (490) and Ravindra Jadeja (275) eyeing to reach the 500 and 300-wicket milestones respectively.

Rohit on selection challenges ahead of Tests

India skipper Rohit Sharma opened up about the “headache” that the management faced ahead of the first Test against England here on Thursday in view of the availability of various good options.

India has a pool of talented players to pick the playing XI. Virat Kohli will miss the first two Test matches due to personal reasons, while KL Rahul won’t be taking up gloves throughout the five-match series against England.

With plenty of roles to fill and the added concern of whether to go with a third additional spinner, Rohit talked about the number of challenges that came up during the selection of playing XI.

“It was a bit of a headache to decide who it would be. I am not going to say who it is, and it was a challenge for us to decide as to who it is. Kuldeep gives you a certain X factor with his bowling especially if the wicket gives bounce or not, he still becomes a factor because he has got superb variations and he is a very mature bowler now,” Rohit said in the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

Rohit kept the cards close to his chest, but he went on to drop a hint on who could be seen featuring in India’s playing XI for the first Test against England.

“He has not played much cricket in India because of Ashwin and Jadeja and that’s what has even happened in the past also. Lot of us got our chances late but that’s how it is and that’s the reality it is, and you can’t hide away from it. Kuldeep is a much better bowler, and it’s a very tempting option. Axar with his all-round ability gives us the batting depth and the consistency he has shown. We have quality around our spin bowling department and it’s a good headache,” Rohit added.

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma plays a shot during Day 1 of 1st Test match against England on Thursday (ANI)

Virat Kohli named ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year

India’s stalwart batter Virat Kohli was crowned as the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year for 2023 on Thursday. He was in contention with his compatriots Shubman Gill, Mohammed Shami and New Zealand batter Daryl Mitchell.

Kohli brought his best out in the ODI World Cup amassing a record tally of 765 runs in the tournament, with his contributions playing a major part in India’s run to the final. Overall, Kohli scored 1,377 runs, claimed 1 wicket and completed 12 catches in 27 matches.

After bouncing back in 2022, Kohli peaked in the ODI World Cup and surpassed the record for most runs scored by a batter in the tournament which was held by batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar.

The experienced right-handed batter finished the tournament with an average of 95.62 and a strike rate of 90.31, scoring three centuries, one of which came in the semi-final against New Zealand.

His ton against the Kiwis in the semi-final took his overall ODI centuries to 50, going past the previous record holder (Sachin Tendulkar) for most centuries in the 50-over format.

In the final four stage, Kohli walked out to bat after skipper Rohit Sharma’s dismissal to face a star-studded Blackcaps bowling line-up.

Kohli found his grove immediately and was flawless till he completed his 50th ODI ton to surpass one of the legends of the game – Sachin.

“It’s stuff of dreams, Anushka was sitting right there, Sachin paaji was there in the stands,” Kohli said later while being interviewed during the innings break.

Kohli’s picture-perfect knock ensured India didn’t suffer another heartbreak at the hands of New Zealand like they did four years back in England.

His 117 combined with Shreyas Iyer’s 105 paved the way for India to reach a mammoth total of 397/4. Mohammed Shami’s seven-wicket haul ensured India went unbeaten into the finals to face Australia.

Khawaja beats Ashwin to win ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year

Australia’s opening batter Usman Khawaja on Thursday was named as the ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year for 2023. Khawaja managed to beat out the tough competition from his compatriot Travis Head, India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and England’s Joe Root for the coveted accolade.

The left-handed opener was the only player to cross the 1000-run mark in Test format in 2023. He ended the year with a total of 1,210 runs to his name in 13 matches. Khawaja made his mark in the Border Gavaskar Trophy, ending the series as the top run-scorer among both teams. He amassed 333 runs in four matches, which included a century and two fifties.

Khawaja failed to impress during Australia’s World Test Championship triumph over India but bounced back in the following Ashes series.

The southpaw impressed by ending the series as the highest run-scorer with 496 runs to his name.

He finished the year on a high note with three 40-plus scores against Pakistan. Khawaja scored two massive tons against South Africa (195*) and India (180) but kept his best for arch-rivals England in the Ashes.

After England made a surprise declaration at 393/8 in the first innings of the opening Test, the Three Lions managed to put pressure on Australia by claiming early wickets.

He stitched up crucial partnerships with Travis Head, Cameron Green and Alex Carey as he made his way to a well-deserved century that helped Australia get close to England’s total.

Khawaja’s heroics helped Australia to secure victory in the first Test which proved to be vital as the Baggy Greens managed to retain the Ashes series.

“We really miss Virat Kohli,” says a fan

Ahead of the first Test match between India and England at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday, fans started to arrive at the stadium.

While speaking to ANI before the game, a fan said that he would miss the former India skipper Virat Kohli. However, he is excited for the skipper, Rohit Sharma.

“We really miss (Virat) Kohli because Telugu fans have a huge fan base for Kohli. We miss him playing in Hyderabad… But I am really excited to see Captain Rohit Sharma,” a fan said.

Meanwhile, another fan hoped that the hosts would clinch a win against England in the first Test match.

“India will win. Definitely, India will win the match,” another fan told ANI.

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