The Indian cricket team head into the five-match Test series against England with confidence. Virat Kohli and co. will believe this is their best chance to prove the detractors wrong, who term them as 'home bullies'. The previous two Test series have witness England win 4-0 in 2011, and then win 3-1 in 2014. But back then, things were very different, and so was the Indian team.
Under Kohli's aggressive captaincy, India are ICC's No.1 team when it comes to Test format. Much of their success has been at home, where they have dismantled the opposition left and right. But earlier this year, they made their mark in overseas condition, despite losing 2-1 in the three-Test series to South Africa. It may have been a series defeat, but that win in the third Test was enough to prove that this 'Men in Blue' team can compete any team back in their own backyard.
Much of India's success has been because of their spin bowlers, or let's just say, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. The spinning duo have torn apart even the best of the batting units when the conditions suit them. In fact, no one can recall a more dangerous pair than these two, when on song. India last toured England in 2014, and neither of the two were of much use. But four years down the line, everything has changed.
Ashwin's Test records are staggering, and speaks volumes about his growth in the past few years. In the past four years, he has played 39 matches, and taken an astonishing 212 wickets. On the other hand, Jadeja has taken 127 wickets in 25 matches during this period, and has been equally good, if not better at times.
Though, England pitches are not known to produce rank-turners, and it's a huge possibility that one of the two may end up on the bench. Or, a certain young lad called Kuldeep Yadav may well end up pushing both of them out of the starting XI!
The young chinaman has taken over the world with his scintillating performances in the shorter format of the game. In a very short career, he has bamboozled the best of the lot in the business. On the current tour, he featured in five of the six limited overs matches (three T20Is and three ODIs) and took 14 wickets. Barring the third ODI, he was unplayable at times.
Now, the question which lies in front of Kohli and Indian team management is how to balance the team out. Out of KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, two will open the batting. After that, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik are assured of their places in the respective order. Two fast bowlers in the form of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav or Mohammed Shami are assured. So it leaves three places up for grabs.
It is no stranger that the English conditions suit the fast bowlers, so there is a huge possibility that Hardik Pandya could be chosen as the fast-bowling all-rounder at No.7. It then leaves the between Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep for the two (or maybe one, if Kohli goes with three pacers) elusive spots.
Over the years, Ashwin has shown his prowess as a batsman, scoring runs when needed. In fact, his form at times meant he batted above Wriddhiman Saha. Jadeja on the other hand is a proven all-rounder, though, his technique against fast bowling is susceptible. Finally, there is Kuldeep, who can provide India with the mystery, something which might come out of the blue for the English batsmen.
Going in terms of experience, Ashwin is sure to start, given his all-round abilities. But in Jadeja, you have a three-dimensional player, who can bat, bowl and field. It's improbable that all the three would start. It's possible, but unlikely that even two of them will be in the playing XI. It's upto Kohli and team management to decide. But for the them, it's a tough, yet sweet dilemma to handle.