Rajkot (Gujarat): Brimming with confidence after whitewashing New Zealand in the recently concluded three-match Test series, India’s head coach Anil Kumble has insisted the team would be looking to cash in on the weaknesses of England, their next opponent in the upcoming five-match Test series.
After the team’s first practice session before the first Test starting in Rajkot from November 9, Kumble on Sunday said England are a quality side and with the likes of Alastair Cook and Joe Root, who have played before as well in the Indian conditions, it would not be an easy task for the Virat Kohli-led side to overpower their opponents.
“New Zealand was a hard-fought series. The result shows a 3-0 win to us (India), but we knew how hard we had to work to win the series. What was very nice to see during the series was that all the three surfaces (Kanpur, Kolkata and Indore) were very different and our team adapted to the conditions and that’s our strength. Yes, we certainly look at the opposition and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are,” the veteran leg-spinner told the reporters.
“Having said that England are a quality side. Alastair Cook has been here a number of occasions. He’s a quality player at the top and that’s something we will be looking at. There is Joe Root and also their bowling attack is something that has troubled us in the past. What we would like to focus on is what we can do, and how we can measure up to and that’s how we played against New Zealand,” he added.
The 46-year-old, however, asserted that the team is a bit disappointed with injuries, especially the one to Rohit Sharma.
“We are a bit disappointed with some of the injuries that have happened. But that is part and parcel of the game. It’s unfortunate, especially I feel sorry for Rohit because he was really doing well in the Test format. We all know importance of Rohit in the shorter format of the game. It is really unfortunate that he misses out of this Test series,” Kumble said.
Meanwhile, the Indian head coach also expressed happiness with the preparation ahead of the five-match Test series.
“We had four or five days break after the series against New Zealand. We are playing a five Test series after a long time. We are happy with our preparation. It’s after quite a while that a five-match Test series is being played in India. We are looking forward to it,” he said.
Kumble didn’t forget to heap praise on Hardik Pandya, who earned his spot in the Test squad on the back of his promising performance against the Black Caps in the five-match ODI series, saying the latter’s inclusion gives the team a number of options.
“He is an extremely talented player. When he first came into IPL, he showed what he’s capable of; I think the potential Hardik has, has been seen by all. When he bowled in Dharamsala and batted in Delhi, one could see that he’s a quality player. That’s why we are backing him in this series as well. We all understand the importance of an all-rounder, as a fifth bowler and bat in the lower order, that’s a great option to have,” he said.
“We are really looking as how Hardik develops. We don’t want to put too much pressure on him, he will have all the freedom to express himself and not worry about Test cricket, whenever he gets the opportunity. He is a quality player whom we will back and yes, he will only get better. The more he plays, better he will get and it’s a nice thing to have an all-rounder in the squad,” he added.
The head coach also informed that the management has not yet decided the team combination they would be going in the Rajkot Test.
“We still have not figured out the combination (for the first Test); everyone is available. With Hardik (Pandya) being part of the squad, we have more options. This is the first Test that will happen at Rajkot. India has played One-Day cricket and Twenty20 here. But we don’t know how the wicket will behave in a Test match. It looks a good surface. We still have a couple of days to decide the team for the Test match,” he said.
While India thumped New Zealand, England is coming off a dismal tour of Bangladesh where they suffered a humiliating loss in the second and final Test in Dhaka.
The last time England visited India in 2012-13, they won the Test series 2-1. And that was the last time India lost a Test at home, back in 2013.
It would be a big task for Alastair Cook to re-instate the confidence in his team when they would take on the No.1 Test side, that too in their den.
The schedule for the five-match Test series is as follows:
First Test in Rajkot (November 9-13), Second Test in Visakhapatnam (November 17-21), Third Test in Mohali (November 26-30), Fourth Test in Mumbai (December 8-12) and the Fifth and the Final Test in Chennai (December 16-20).
England squad: Alastair Cook (Captain), Moeen Ali, Zafar Ansari, Johny Bairstow (WK), Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Gareth Batty, Stuart Broad, Jose Buttler, Ben Duckett, Steve Finn, H Hameed, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.
India squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Ishant Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Gautam Gambhir, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Karun Nair, Mohammad Shami, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya.