England vs India, 5th Test, Pataudi Trophy 2021: Jasprit Bumrah to become India’s 36th Test captain and only second fast bowler after Kapil Dev.
India are all set to take on England in the rescheduled fifth Test of the Pataudi Trophy 2021 at Edgbaston from Friday. This match was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian squad with a physio Yogesh Parmar contracting the virus before the beginning of the game which was originally scheduled to be held at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Apparently, India are in the driver's seat with a 2-1 lead in the series. The scenes with regards to the Covid scare are no different a year later as well, as India’s all-format captain Rohit Sharma has tested positive for the dreaded virus and will no longer be part of the Test squad. With Sharma’s exit, Jasprit Bumrah is all set to become India’s 36th Test captain and will only be the second fast bowler from India to don the captain's blazer after the legendary Kapil Dev. Dev’s last match as captain for India in a Test match was against Pakistan in March 1987.
India’s best chance to win in England since 2007
If we ask any honest Indian fan, when was India’s best chance to win a series in England after the 2007 series, all the Indians would have cheered at the top of their lungs with the tri-colour paint on their faces, that it was the 2021 series with India’s most successful Test captain, Virat Kohli, at the helm. A year later, neither is Virat the captain, nor is Ravi Shastri’s fierce support available in the dressing room. India will be under a new captain, along with India’s first and only captain who won a series in England, The Wall of India, Rahul Dravid, with the coaching cap. Despite the fact that there have been many changes in the management and team, the preparations for Team India remain the same, or rather, the under preparation remains the same!
India go in with lack of adequate preparation as Bumrah faces off with Stokes
The cricketing pundits predict a repeat of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2019-21 Final where India lost to New Zealand; they didn’t get any practice before that important game and suffered significantly. Similarly, India will be heading into the Edgbaston Test with just one practice match against Leicestershire under their belt. On the other hand, the hosts will be coming off a 3-0 thrashing of the Kiwis.
The Indian camp has given newcomers like Prasidh Krishna, KS Bharat and Kamlesh Nagarkotti opportunities in the practice game, where Indians were pitted against Indians as well as the county side players. The top-scorer in the match for India on either side were two wicketkeepers, Rishabh Pant and KS Bharat. Whereas, the newly appointed India captain, Jasprit Bumrah, was off line and length and picked just one wicket in the two innings that he bowled.
While the India batters and bowlers will take some time to adjust to the line, length and conditions in the United Kingdom (UK), the hosts, who are in red-hot form under the rejuvenated leadership combination of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, will be charging onto the pitch with a mental model to put the opposition under pressure. For England, the former captain, Joe Root is probably in the form of his life, with two centuries in three matches against New Zealand.
Key match-ups: James Anderson is India’s biggest threat
The obvious threats for England in the bowling department are James Anderson and Stuart Broad, as well as Matthew Potts, who can come off the syllabus bench for India. With Jonny Bairstow playing T20 cricket in whites and Jack Leach picking up five wickets in the previous game, and the Lions releasing their starting eleven a day ahead of match-day, the hosts' confidence in the series decider match is evident.
The key match-up to watch at Edgbaston would be the old but golden battle between James Anderson and Virat Kohli, in which Anderson has his tail up having dismissed Kohli seven times. After a horrendous 2014 series against Anderson, Kohli got the better of Anderson for the next two series until 2021, when Anderson finally dismissed Kohli after seven years. The veteran pacer also has a decent match-up against Rishabh Pant, where the latter has been dismissed thrice and averages just 23.7 against Anderson.
On the other hand, the in-form Jonny Bairstow has an average of just 5.7 against Bumrah in Tests, where the new India Test captain has dismissed the former thrice in 70 balls. Bumrah has a brilliant record against Joe Root too, where the right-hander has been dismissed six times and averages below 33 against Bumrah. On the other hand, England captain Ben Stokes has an average of more than 60 against Jasprit and Shami. But on the contrary, he has been dismissed four times by Ravindra Jadeja, against whom he averages under 20.
With so many match-ups and key battles up for grabs, it only strengthens the importance of Test cricket, and these five days of cricket will be the real "test" for both the teams. Since McCullum-Stokes Era has begun, the momentum has shifted from India to England, despite the hosts being 1-2 down, and it will be fascinating to see how Bumrah captains and manages his own bowling with the calm and composed Rahul Dravid at the helm.