Former India batsman Wasim Jaffer has picked India's playing XI ahead of the first Test against England, starting from February 5 in Chennai. For the opening duo, Jaffer went with Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma. Gill, after replacing a struggling Prithvi Shaw in Australia, had an impressive stint with the bat where he scored 259 runs in three Tests including a match-winning 91 at The Gabba.
Jaffer further picked Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant to complete the middle-order, followed by Ravi Ashwin and Axar Patel as the spin bowling duo. According to Jaffer, Axar can leave his mark as English batsmen tend to struggle against left-arm spinners.
Coming on to the pace attack, the 42-year-old chose Jasprit Bumrah to lead the pack, with either Ishant Sharma or Mohammed Siraj complementing him according to the pitch and conditions. Jaffer also believes that either Kuldeep Yadav or Shardul Thakur could also feature in the playing XI if the management decides to tweak the team combination.
"India's Playing XI for 1st Test (imo): 1 Rohit 2 Gill 3 Pujara 4 Kohli 5 Rahane 6 Pant 7 Axar* 8 Ashwin 9 Kuldeep/Thakur 10 Ishant/Siraj 11 Bumrah. Question is about 2 spots depending on combination + pitch. What''s your XI? *Eng have huge weakness vs left-arm spin. #INDvENG," Jaffer tweeted.
India and England will play four Tests. The first two matches will be held at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai (Feb 5-9 and Feb 13-17) while the next two will be held in Ahmedabad (Feb 24-28 and Mar 4-8). After the Test series, the focus will shift to the five-game T20I series in Ahmedabad's Motera and the three-match ODI series in Pune.
Ahead of the all-important series, England all-rounder Moeen Ali has also heaped praise on India skipper Virat Kohli. The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper doesn't have "any weakness," according to the English tweaker.
"How do we get him out? He's obviously an amazing player, world class, he's very motivated to do well and I'm sure he'll be even more motivated after they did well in Australia and he had to leave for the birth of his child," Moeen said, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo. "I don't know how we're going to get him out [specifically] because I don't think he has any sort of weakness but we have a good bowling attack, some pace in the line-up," he said.
India's squad for first two Tests against England: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul (subject to fitness), Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel.