Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir put India as favourites to win the upcoming four-Test series against England but maintained that England will be no pushovers in the Tests starting in Chennai on February 5. In an interview with NDTV, Gambhir said the visitors are capable of pulling off a surprise with the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jimmy Anderson in their midst. However, he stopped short of predicting a score-line. “I hate predicting because it’s a sport. And it’s very difficult to predict. But then, again, I think the venue for the first two Test matches, obviously we’ll put India as favourites because Chennai has always been a happy hunting ground for India,” Gambhir said.
“Plus, obviously, spin plays a huge part, and if you compare both the sides with their spinning options, (Ravichandran) Ashwin, probably the best in the world right now.
“You have got Kuldeep Yadav. Axar Patel is going to probably make his debut, I’m not sure.
“And on the other side here, they’ve got an inexperienced spin bowling attack.
“So, from the spin point of view, obviously, India has got an edge, especially at the venue they’re playing at. So, I’m sure India will start as favourites,” added Gambhir, who had earlier said England won’t win any Tests on this tour with the kind of spin attack they have.
Ravichandran Ashwin had a successful series against Australia with bat and ball, but Gambhir feels that the ability of English batsmen to play the sweep and reverse-sweep will present a different challenge for the Indian spinner.
“If you see English batters, they sweep a lot, they reverse sweep a lot. But if you see the Australian batsmen, they hardly sweep,” said Gambhir.
“And if you see Joe Root, the way he played against Sri Lankan bowlers, he swept them a lot.
“So, Ashwin is going to have a challenge as well and I’m sure Ashwin is really shrewd and he’s very experienced.
“He knows that how English batters that actually look to take him on as well. So, he probably will bowl different lines, probably will bowl different lengths as well,” Gambhir added.
Ravindra Jadeja is not part of the squad for the first two Tests and in Jadeja’s absence whom does Gambhir see partnering Ashwin as the second spinner?
“It has to be a like to like swap, and I’ll definitely go with Axar Patel because he’s very similar to someone like Ravindra Jadeja. Bowls really tight, can bat at number seven, can contribute with the bat,” said Gambhir.
“Plus, a left arm spin is always a great option for any captain to have. Plus, you’ve got Kuldeep Yadav as well.
“So, looking at all the options and the way and the venue they’re playing at, obviously if India could go with three spinners, which is Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, then that will put them in very good stead and at the same time, that would be a great combination as well,” Gambhir said.
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