After a successful outing in the T20I series against Afghanistan, Team India is now set to host England for a five-match Test series, starting with the first Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on January 25. All eyes will be on the home team as they aim to repeat the heroics from 2021 when they won the 4-match series with dominating performances and a resounding scoreline that read 3-1.
This time around, the Test squad features some new faces, making it an interesting combination of youth and experience. Rohit Sharma will continue to lead the side, with Jasprit Bumrah acting as the deputy. Virat Kohli, who was part of the original squad, has now opted out of the first two Tests citing personal reasons. The 16-member unit also includes four Royals players, two of whom are yet to make their respective Test debuts.
India Squad for the 1st and 2nd Test
Full Squad: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (WK), KS Bharat (WK), Dhruv Jurel (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Avesh Khan
Let's take a look at what's in store for each of them:
With 32 wickets at an average of 14.72, Ravichandran Ashwin put up a stunning show of spin bowling and finished as India's leading wicket-taker in the 2021 series. However, his bowling wasn't the only thing that stood out in the series. It was also his contribution with the bat that made plenty of noise, something we've seen in the last few IPL seasons as well. In 4 Tests, Ashwin scored 189 runs at an impressive average of 31, the third-highest for India in the entire series, only behind Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant. As the veteran off-spinner gears up to play his 96th Test, he will be chasing yet another milestone that will place him in an even more elite list altogether. Currently third on the list, Ashwin is 8 wickets away from becoming the highest wicket-taker for India against England in Tests. BS Chandrasekhar occupies the top spot with 95 scalps, with Anil Kumble in second position with 92. In doing so, he will also cross 500 wickets in Test cricket. As an integral cog in India's three-pronged spin attack, Ashwin continues to lead the charge with his rich experience and wily off-spin.
What a dream year 2023 has been for this youngster! A career-best IPL season, maiden Test century on debut, first-ever T20I ton in a historic, successful Asian Games campaign and a deserving spot in the ICC Men's T20I team of the year. Yashasvi Jaiswal seems to be ticking all the boxes as far as his achievements and accolades are concerned, and this is just the beginning. High on confidence and plenty of runs, and known to tonk the ball irrespective of the format, Jaiswal will shoulder the responsibility of opening India's innings alongside the skipper, with whom he has already begun on a solid note in the West Indies. Together, the duo exhibit a fine mix of attack and defence, playing their respective roles to perfection. In the Caribbean, Yashasvi's daring Test century was also laced with the patience and grit that is required in the longest format. This will be the southpaw's first-ever tryst with England in Test cricket.
Fast bowler Avesh Khan earned his maiden Test call-up during India's tour of South Africa in December 2023 as a replacement for the injured Mohammed Shami but didn't officially make his debut. Thanks to his performances in the unofficial matches on that tour and his consistency in domestic red-ball cricket, he continues to be a part of the Test squad going into the England series as well. In 39 first-class games, Avesh has bagged over 150 wickets at an average of 22. Having made his limited-overs debut for India in the past couple of years, the right-arm pacer is one step away from achieving his Test dream and is part of a solid pace attack alongside Jasprit Bumrah, Mukesh Kumar and Mohammed Siraj. Depending on the type of pitches on offer and India's strategy against England, it remains to be seen whether he finds a spot in the Playing XI.
They say when it rains, it pours. Just days before celebrating his 22nd birthday, young Dhruv Jurel received the biggest (read: best) shock of his life, when the BCCI announced India's Test squad for the England series. A wicketkeeper-batter from Uttar Pradesh, Jurel made waves with his 'impactful' knocks when he played his first IPL season with Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2023. Since then, he has only gone from strength to strength, playing for India A in the Emerging Teams Asia Cup and the warm-up fixtures against England Lions ahead of the Test series. Dhruv's fearless approach to batting and his hunger to go beyond his comfort zone stand out as qualities that propel him to greater heights. Now, as one of India's three wicketkeepers in the squad, the youngster finds himself on the cusp of making his Test debut.