LONDON - India may be the world's top-ranked Test side but they still face accusations they are lions at home and lambs abroad.
But a series win in England, where Virat Kohli's men begin a five-Test campaign at Edgbaston on Wednesday, would go some way to ridding India of that unwanted tag. In the past five years, India have won just one of their six Test series outside of Asia, against a struggling West Indies. Their overall Test record in England is uninspiring -- six wins from 57 matches and three series victories -- 1971, 1986 and 2007. But if the current prolonged hot weather in England continues, the upcoming series may well be played on dry and dusty pitches, more akin to the surfaces that are found in India, rather than traditional green English seamers.
Match starts at 3:00 PM
Also, while doubts persist about England's ability to cope should either one of veteran new-ball duo Stuart Broad and James Anderson get injured, India do at least have some pace-bowling depth. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah may be unfit for the first Test but the likes of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have shown themselves to be capable operators outside of Asia.
Anderson is a master of conventional swing, but India may have the edge if conditions favour reverse-swing during what will be England's 1,000th Test match. "They seem to have got a good variety of bowlers and strength in depth in their pace bowling," said England opener Alastair Cook. "In the last ten years I've played them, they haven't had the option of playing five or six different types of seamers," added Cook, England's all-time leading Test run-scorer, whose highest score of 294 was made against India at Edgbaston in 2011.
Meanwhile India captain Kohli, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, will be desperate to prove he can score runs in England. He managed a meagre 134 in five matches during his maiden Test series in England in 2014, which India lost 3-1 with one draw. But Mohammad Azharuddin, the India batting great, believes everything is now in place for Kohli to have a successful series. "I think he will perform wonderfully well," Azharuddin told AFP in Delhi. "He has led India in so many Test matches, so I don't think he will have any pressure now as far as leadership is concerned."
ENGLAND: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (capt), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Adil Rashid, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
INDIA: Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wkt), Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav.