International men’s cricket returns to India for the first time since the pandemic disrupted the game in 2020. And, with it, Virat Kohli returns to captain a buoyant side against England as they aim to build on their crushing win over Australia by sealing a place in the World Test Championship final.
Kohli missed three-fourths of the Australia series on paternity leave as Ajinkya Rahane led an injury-ravaged side from 0-1 down to a sensational 2-1 away win.
Next up is the much-anticipated four-match series against Joe Root’s England, who are also on a winning streak after beating Sri Lanka 2-0 on their first Test tour since the pandemic.
India do as strong favourites on their spin-friendly home pitches, where England haven’t won a Test since 2012. But it is worth mentioning that England are the last away team to win a Test series in India. Since January 2010, India have lost only four Test matches at home and two of those have come against England.
The hosts will also expect to clinch their place in the inaugural World Test Championship final in June at Lord’s, where New Zealand await. India top the table followed by New Zealand, Australia and England. The Black Caps reached the final when Australia called off their tour of South Africa over coronavirus concerns.
Head to head
England can take some heart from the fact that they are the last side to find a way to win a Test series in India. And despite the scoreline not reflecting it, India were given a good fight by England over the course of the last series in 2016. There were many instances when India were under pressure during that five-match affair but Kohli’s men found players to step up. It was, in fact, in Chennai that the penny truly dropped for the visitors.
India vs England Test series results since 2000
|Season||Series winners||Scoreline (Total No of Tests)|
|England in India||2001/02||India (H)||1-0 (3)|
|India in England||2002||drawn||1-1 (4)|
|England in India||2005/06||drawn||1-1 (3)|
|India in England||2007||India (A)||1-0 (3)|
|England in India||2008/09||India (H)||1-0 (2)|
|India in England||2011||England (H)||4-0 (4)|
|England in India||2012/13||England (A)||2-1 (4)|
|India in England||2014||England (H)||3-1 (5)|
|England in India||2016/17||India (H)||4-0 (5)|
|India in England||2018||England (H)||4-1 (5)|
“I said at the beginning of the series, it was vitally important to stay in the contest as long as we can, because we’ve seen in previous tours here, it’s a hard juggernaut to stop - the India juggernaut at home, when they’re are playing as well as that. Once they get ahead, their confidence goes and it’s hard to stop that momentum.
“Whether 4-0 is fair or not, it’s hard to say,. We’ve struggled to take 20 wickets and we haven’t got enough runs, so we probably didn’t deserve much more than that.
“We’ve missed opportunities, we’ve been in games and had good fortune to win four out of five tosses, but we haven’t pushed home our advantages. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say we are not good enough in these conditions. We will have to be better when we come back.”— Alastair Cook after England's 4-1 defeat in 2016
India England head-to-head records
|In India (Overall)||60||13||19||28|
|Since 2000 (in India)||17||3||8||6|
India’s home record is by some distance the best in the world since January 2010. The team has a remarkable win/loss ratio of 9.25 at home compared to New Zealand at No 2 with a 3.714 W/L ratio.
It is this home comfort that Virat Kohli’s men would look to tap into as they seek to win at least two matches (and avoid two defeats) to seal their spot in the WTC final.
Home record in Tests since 2010
The first two matches of the series will be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. India enjoy a good record in Chennai too; there is no other venue in the country where the hosts have won more Test matches. Among venues where India have played at least 10 Tests, only in Mohali and at Brabourne Stadium (Mumbai) do they have a better win/loss ratio.
India's best W/L ratio at home (min 10 matches)
As for England’s visits to Chennai, the most memorable outing is from 2008 when Sachin Tendulkar (with help from Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh) scripted a memorable run-chase.
England have won three Test matches in Chennai too, but the most recent was in January 1985. It was a series that England won 2-1. On their last tour, India romped home by an innings and 75 runs in a match where Karun Nair scored a triple century.
India vs England Tests in Chennai
|England||202 runs||10 Feb 1934|
|India||inns & 8 runs||6 Feb 1952|
|India||4 wickets||12 Jan 1973|
|England||200 runs||14 Jan 1977|
|Draw||-||13 Jan 1982|
|England||9 wickets||13 Jan 1985|
|India||inns & 22 runs||11 Feb 1993|
|India||6 wickets||11 Dec 2008|
|India||inns & 75 runs||16 Dec 2016|
Fast bowler Mohammed Siraj and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant were among the stars for India as they clinched the series by handing Australia their first defeat at Brisbane’s Gabba ground since 1988.
Paceman Mohammed Shami and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja will miss the first two Tests due to injuries, but England are keenly aware of the strength and variety of India’s attack.
“The one thing about the Indian bowling attack is that it’s not just about spin,” England’s assistant coach Graham Thorpe said. “Their seam attack is also strong. We can’t be sidetracked completely and focus just on the spin side of things.”
Jasprit Bumrah will lead the pace attack that also includes Siraj, Ishant Sharma and Shardul Thakur. Spinners Ashwin Ravichandran, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel will also be key on the Indian pitches.
England have come equipped with their spin options in Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Moeen Ali, who has recovered from the Covid-19 infection that kept him out of the Sri Lanka series. They also have three reserve spinners in Mason Crane, Matthew Parkinson and Amar Virdi.
Century for Root
Root, who hit match-winning scores of 228 and 186 in the first and second Sri Lanka Tests, will complete a century of Tests in the first game.
The visitors have been boosted by the return of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns as they rotate players to reduce their time in biosecure “bubbles”. Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will go home after the first Test, while Jonny Bairstow has been rested for the opening two matches.
“Root has time to play his strokes. He also plays spin well off the back foot,” Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav told ESPNcricinfo.
“Buttler dominates the bowlers really well. That is his strength. Stokes too is similar and keeps the bowler under pressure.”
The first Test in Chennai is behind closed doors, but 50% capacity – around 16,500 – will be allowed at the second Test in the same venue.
The day-night third Test and the fourth game will be the first held at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad – the world’s biggest cricket stadium, with a 110,000 capacity.
India has the world’s second highest number of pandemic cases, more than 10.7 million, but numbers of new infections and deaths have fallen dramatically in recent weeks.
Statistics courtesy: ESPNCricinfo Statsguru
(With AFP inputs)
The first Test starts at 9.30 am on Friday and will be broadcast on Star Sports in India.
|5th - 9th Feb||1st Test||Chennai|
|13th - 17th Feb||2nd Test||Chennai|
|24th – 28th Feb||3rd Test (D/N)||Ahmedabad|
|4th – 8th March||4th Test||Ahmedabad|