As Rohit Sharma’s India go up against England’s “Bazball” style of attacking cricket in what is expected to be a gruelling five-Test series, they will head in with a huge psychological advantage – India have not lost a home Test series in more than a decade.

The series begins on Thursday in Hyderabad. And although India will be without Virat Kohli for the first two matches because of personal reasons, they start as clear favourites.

Not just because of the home advantage or their fearsome record here but because Ben Stokes’s England are already drawing in criticism about appearing undercooked.

Further, England prepared in Abu Dhabi instead of playing a tour match in India.

Nonetheless, England were the last team to beat India on home turf, when Alastair Cook's team won a four-match series 2-1 in 2012-13.

Under coach Brendon McCullum who has helped transform England's red-ball fortunes since joining forces with Stokes in 2022, the pair took over a team that had won just one of its previous 17 Tests.

England have since won 13 out of 18 Tests under the duo.

In 2021, when England toured India, they lost 4-1. They had won the first Test in Chennai by 227 runs but in the three matches that followed, India defeated them comprehensively in all the games.

Veteran pace bowler James Anderson and senior batter Joe Root are the only two surviving members of England's last Test triumph in India.

The 41-year-old Anderson, who is 10 short of 700 Test wickets, will lead England's bowling after the retirement of pace partner Stuart Broad following the Ashes in 2023, which were retained by Australia.

Jack Leach will be crucial to the tourists as their frontline spinner in a department that otherwise has two uncapped players in Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir.

Despite his advancing years, Root stands tall in a batting department that also boasts Jonny Bairstow, Stokes and Ollie Pope. However, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would be expected to keep Root in check. In eight innings, Ashwin has dismissed Root twice, while on turning grounds, Axar Patel's left-arm spin claimed his wicket thrice. In 2016, Jadeja dismissed Root three times.

Meanwhile, Anderson and India captain Sharma will square off in a crucial match that pits the opening batter against the seasoned fast bowler.

Sharma has scored 713 runs against England in the last eight Tests since he turned opener. His match-winning 127 in the second innings of the Oval Test in 2021 stands out when he dominated the England bowling, which had Anderson sharing the new ball with Ollie Robinson.

Sharma’s 83 in the first innings at Lord's earlier in the series was crucial, but Anderson stopped the opening batter from reaching his century to limit the damage.

Although the pacer has removed Sharma twice in Test matches, he would like to increase the total as he gets closer to reaching the coveted 700-wicket mark.

On India’s batting front, Kohli's absence for the first two matches will hurt the hosts. Kohli averages 56 in Tests against England in India, including three centuries. As a result, it paves the way for a consistent Indian middle order to step up.

The series will be an opportunity for up-and-coming players including Yashasvi Jaiswal and wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat to prove their mettle in the longer format. Coach Rahul Dravid on Tuesday confirmed that KL Rahul will not be keeping.

“I think we were quite clear about that with the selection itself,” Dravid said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Rahul did a fantastic job for us in South Africa and really played a big part in us drawing that series. But considering it's five Test matches and playing in these conditions, we felt we would go with another keeping option, considering the weather, considering the conditions. So obviously it's a selection toss-up between the two other keepers [Bharat and Dhruv Jurel] that we have.”

The hosts recently drew a two-match Test series in South Africa and will be hoping to carry points for the World Test Championship in the upcoming series.

India are second behind Australia in the championship table, currently. England languish in eighth and will need wins in the India series if they want to play the final at Lord's next year.

With inputs from AFP