India’s Virat Kohli (right) and England’s Joe Root (left) will resume their rivalry in the four-Test series starting on Friday. Courtesy: Twitter
England skipper Joe Root, 30, set for his 100th Test on Friday, would be eyeing a repeat of the start to his illustrious career — a rare series win on Indian soil.
Root, 30, who will be leading England in the four Tests, knows he needs a win in the series to stand any chance of reaching the inaugural World Test Championship final in June.
Root made his debut in 2012 at Nagpur in the fourth match of a series won by England 2-1 under Alastair Cook, their last triumph in India.
“I think walking out in an England shirt will probably be the proudest moment,” Root told reporters on Thursday, on the eve of the opening Test in Chennai.
After his debut, Root was involved in a Birmingham pub brawl in 2013 when he was punched by Australia’s David Warner.
But he matured to become a batting mainstay and an impressive team leader.
Root failed to hit a century in 2020 but rebounded with innings of 228 and 186 in successive Tests in Sri Lanka last month.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain called Root a “one in a million” player who England should be proud of.
His match-winning scores in Sri Lanka, as England swept the series, took him to 8,249 runs including 19 hundreds, surpassing England greats Geoffrey Boycott (8,114), Pietersen (8,181) and David Gower (8,231).
Root played the sweep and reverse sweep shots brilliantly as he tackled the Sri Lanka spinners on a turning pitch at Galle.
Even though England have now won five overseas Tests in a row, their best run for more than 100 years, Root will need all of his guile to take on India on their home turf.
He knows that first-innings runs will be key to any hopes of success. India scored at least 400 in the first innings of all five Tests when they smashed England 4-0 on their last visit in 2016-17.
He is known to have studied the tactics of other England captains who have won in India. And win or lose, he is certain to keep the captain’s job.
After taking over when Cook stepped down as Test in 2017, Root has led England to 25 Test wins in 46 matches. His 54 percent win rate is second only to Mike Brearley (58.06) among captains who have led the team in 15 or more matches.
England’s new star fast bowler Jofra Archer says it is reassuring to play under Root, who he calls a “great man manager” and “a great person”.
INJURED CRAWLEY OUT OF 2 TESTS: England batsman Zak Crawley has been ruled out of the first two Tests in India with a wrist injury, his country’s cricket board said on Thursday.
Crawley, 23, slipped on a marble floor outside the dressing room during training ahead of the four-Test series starting in Chennai on Friday.
“Scan results have confirmed that Crawley has jarred his right wrist, which has sprained the joint and led to local inflammation,” the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement.
The England medical team will assess his progress over the next few weeks, it added.
GOWER FLAYS ROTATION POLICY: Former captain David Gower has warned England risk scuppering their chances of winning an “immense, box-office” Test series in India by sticking rigidly to a player-rotation policy.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler is heading home after the first Test at Chennai starting on Friday, while Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran are being rested until the third match of the four-game series.
Star all-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer have returned to the squad after sitting out the Sri Lanka series, which England swept 2-0.
Gower was sympathetic to the demands of a schedule that sees England play at least 17 Tests in 2021 and said the strain of spending prolonged spells inside bio-secure bubbles was something “you should not overlook”.
Nevertheless Gower questioned an approach that could dent Joe Root’s side’s chances of a rare series success in India and with it a place in the inaugural World Test Championship final against New Zealand at Lord’s in June.
“Forget the World Test Championship for a moment, this is now as historic a series as any,” said Gower, who led England to a 2-1 triumph in India in 1984/85.
“India-England is one of the flagstaff series, it’s an immense series, a box-office series,” added Gower.
“As a Test fan, I’m slightly annoyed England have already made plans for Jos Buttler to play the one Test match.
“Just as an Englishman, wanting England to do well in this series, you want the best players to be available for as much of it as possible.”
England split up the longstanding pace pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad in Sri Lanka but Gower said it was “very evident” that the duo, who have more than 1,100 Test wickets between them, were still the team’s best bowlers.
“As long as England pick their best XI, they will be competitive,” he insisted.