As they seek to build on their crushing victory over Australia by sealing a spot in the World Test Championship final, new dad Virat Kohli returns to captain a buoyant India against England.
Kohli, who received a baby girl last month, missed much of the paternity leave Australia sequence as Ajinkya Rahane led an injury-ravaged side from 0-1 down to an exciting 2-1 away victory.
Next up is the much-anticipated four-game series against Joe Root’s England, who, after defeating Sri Lanka 2-0 on their first test tour since the pandemic, are still on a winning streak.
Nevertheless, on Friday, when the first test begins, India will start as heavy favourites, on their spin-friendly home pitches, where England has not won a test since 2012.
In June at Lord’s, where New Zealand awaits, the hosts will also hope to seal their spot in the inaugural World Test Championship final.
India, led by New Zealand, Australia and England, topped the table. When Australia called off their tour of South Africa over coronavirus fears, the Black Caps reached the final.
Among the new stars discovered by India were fast bowler Mohammed Siraj and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, as they clinched the series by handing Australia their first loss since 1988 at Brisbane’s Gabba ground.
The first two tests are due to injuries, but England is keenly conscious of the strength and variety of the attack in India.
“The one thing about the Indian bowling attack is that it’s not just about spin,” said Graham Thorpe, England’s assistant coach.
“Their seam attack is powerful as well. We can’t get totally sidetracked and rely just on the revolving side of stuff.
The pace attack, which also includes Siraj, Ishant Sharma and Shardul Thakur, will be led by Jasprit Bumrah.
On Indian pitches, spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel will also be key.
In Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Moeen Ali, who have recovered from the Covid infection that held him out of the Sri Lanka series, England have come fitted with their spin choices.
In Mason Crane, Matthew Parkinson and Amar Virdi, they have three backup spinners as well.
In the first and second Sri Lanka Tests, Root, who earned game-winning scores of 228 and 186, will complete a century of tests in the first game.
The return of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns has strengthened the visitors as they rotate players to limit their time in biosecure “bubbles.”
After the first test, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will go home, though Jonny Bairstow has been rested for the opening two matches.
“Root has time for his strokes to play. Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav told ESPNcricinfo, “He also plays spin well off the back foot.”
Root, who won game-winning scores of 228 and 186 in the first and second Sri Lanka tests, will complete a century of tests in the first game.
Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will go home after the first test, while Jonny Bairstow has been rested for the opening two matches.
“Root has time to play with his strokes. ESPNcricinfo was told by Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav, “He even plays spin off the back foot well.”