Venue: M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
Date: Friday, February 5th – Tuesday, February 9th
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this has become a monster tour with England playing four Tests, five ODIs, and three T20Is. The makeup of the tour has changed a number of times due to the positioning and repositioning of the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup – among other things – on the international cricket calendar and the nearly two-month-long schedule of matches starts with the first Test on Friday in Chennai.
India is coming off of one of the most remarkable Test series wins in the history of the game after they were able to pull off a dramatic 2-1 win in Australia. They were utterly humiliated in the opener in Adelaide and a squad that seemed to pick up injuries daily over the course of the tour – playing under a stand-in captain most of the way – was somehow able to pull off a win that no one realistically saw coming.
India’s Test match home form is almost impeccable. They have won a mighty – and a record – 12 successive home Test series – and even more astonishingly they have lost just one of the last 35 Test matches that they have hosted. To say that Joe Root’s England team is up against a buzzsaw in the Indian home form is almost downplaying just how dominant they have been over the last decade.
That run of wins includes a 4-0 whitewashing of England the last time that they travelled to the sub-continent back in 2016-17. England, however, are the last side to have come back from India with a series victory. This was achieved back in 2012-13 – ironically the series in which captain Root made his Test debut.
The trials of the series in Australia are still being felt and India will be without a number of first XI regulars for the first half of this series. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is one casualty, as are fast-bowlers Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami. In better news for the hosts, captain Virat Kohli is back in the fold. He missed the last three Tests in Australia as he returned home to be there for the birth of his daughter. Kohli will provide a welcome boost to a team already riding on a wave of positive energy and emotion that will be hard for England to bring down.
England will again be rotating their players who compete in multi-formats. This is a policy many have questioned and it does mean that they will find it hard to field their best side at any point during this tour. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will be playing in this Test before returning home, while players like Johnny Bairstow and Mark Wood will only be joining the playing pool for the final two matches of the Test series. Coming off of a morale-boosting 2-0 win in Sri Lanka, England will also be adding the likes of pacer Jofra Archer, opener Rory Burns, and all-rounder Ben Stokes to the squad of potential players here.
It will be interesting to see if England are able to find any form in this Test as they play out of a biosecure bubble. India is the heavy favourites – it is hard to pick England based purely on their Sri Lanka series win – so looking at other markets is the way to go. One bet I like is Root to be the top England batsman at 2.00 with BetXChange as he is clearly the English batsman in the best form coming into this one.