England's Weak Link Is The Top Three As India Cement Theirs
While India cemented their top-order batting on the recent tour of Australia with Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill settling in as opening pair and Cheteshwar Pujara already there at No. 3, England's top-order in comparison looks shaky ahead of the four-Test tour of India.
With both England openers Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley failing to get big scores - Sibley got just one fifty in four innings and Crawley got none - in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka, England's problems were compounded when they decided to send back home Jonny Bairstow, who batted at No.3 and averaged 46.33 in Sri Lanka.
England is rotating players for the India series. But former England skipper Nasser Hussain has asked England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to rethink the decision and recall Bairstow.
"I think Bairstow, Ben Stokes, and Joe Root are the three best players of spin bowling in the England camp. One has been given the boarding pass to England while the other two are going to Chennai. I'd have to rethink that," said Hussain.
In Bairstow's absence, England may play Crawley at No.3 and open with Sibley and regular opener Rory Burns, who has joined the team in Chennai after missing the Sri Lanka series.
Crawley has batted at No.3 in the two Tests before the Sri Lanka series and even scored a double century at that position. However, he has pushed up the order as Burns stayed home during the tour of Sri Lanka.
Hussain has pointed out technical issues in Crawley's batting against the spinners saying that he tends to play across the line, and that makes him vulnerable. He made similar observations for Sibley.
Besides, none of these possible England top three have played in the subcontinental conditions except in Sri Lanka. While this was Sibley and Crawley's first outing there, Burn had traveled to Sri Lanka with the English team in 2018. He aggregated 155 in six innings at an average of 25.83 and scored just one fifty on that tour.
The lack of experience of the English top three in these conditions, and especially against a quality spin attack that India presents, leave the visitors quite vulnerable.
Burns, Crawley, and Sibley have together played 45 Tests and just seven of those have come in the subcontinental conditions - all in Sri Lanka.
India, on the other hand, has among the top three the experience Sharma and Pujara, both of who have played 115 Tests combined. Out of these 115 matches, 55 have come in India and eight others on similar spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The only inexperienced batsman India has at the top is Gill who has played three Tests, all in Australia. However, he has ample experience in India, having played domestic cricket for some time.