India in England promises some white heat on the pitch

Well, that escalated quickly.

The England-India series has exploded into life already as the hosts try to stop the internal bleeding of Rashidgate. The teapot of sympathy from Yorkshire has clearly emptied for the leg-spinner after he took up his country’s very kind offer of a route back into red ball cricket.

Michael Vaughan has piped up again, citing his former team mate’s selection as “a stab in the chest” for the county game. As for Graeme Swann, he doesn’t think Rashid is up for the hard slog of five-day Tests. Well, that’s debateable. Most last only three anyway…

From their lofty perch, India must be quietly chuckling to themselves that their opponents are looking inward. England’s Test team simply do not have the panache, world position or confidence of their one-day unit.

The individual battles are boiling away nicely in the background though and ready to come to the fore in Birmingham on Wednesday. More of that in a minute.

Virat Kohli, by his own exalted standards, had a stinker of a tour in 2014, recording scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0,7, 6 and 20 as Anderson and Stuart Broad out-thought him with seam and swing. Talking about that series retrospectively to Nasser Hussain, Kohli claimed: “I had put too much pressure on myself before going to England that I needed to score here. I don’t know why sub-continent players are given different benchmarks that we have to perform in certain countries and if you don’t do that, you are not considered a good player.”

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Clearly, the world’s number two batsman was affected by that unofficial challenge of “doing the business” at the home of cricket. The world’s number two bowler, Anderson, has wasted no time in seizing on the Indian skipper’s recent comments that the team performance is more important.

The Burnley Express allowed himself a creeping smile before retorting: “It doesn’t matter if he gets runs or not? I think he is telling lies there.” Spicy.

Cheteshwar Pujara is the other star batter in the opposition who will be looking to put bad memories behind him during that 3-1 loss. He only scored a solitary 50 and when Ajinkya Rahane tailed off, India struggled to compete.

The 2014 series actually started with home skipper Alastair Cook under pressure for his place and captaincy after the disastrous campaign down under but ended with disharmony and frustration within the Indian camp. Their demise was not helped by the lingering bad feeling created when Anderson escaped censure for his altercation with Ravi Jadeja at Trent Bridge.

Two years later, Kohli was at his feisty “worst” at Mohali, chucking the ball at Jonny Bairstow and sending Ben Stokes on his way with a few choice words. Yet it was the burly Durham all-rounder who got a demerit point. There are some big mouths on both sides and Kohli will not be able to rein himself in on occasion. Expect a few rows over the garden fence.

By Tim Ellis