Zak Crawley will miss the first two Tests against India after scans showed that he sprained his right wrist in what Joe Root described as “a real freak accident”, slipping on the marble floors of England’s changing room in Chennai on his way out to practice.
Following Crawley’s accident England’s players initially covered the floor in towels to provide some traction when wearing spikes, since when a more permanent floor covering has been installed in an attempt to prevent further injuries. “It’s not something you first think about when you turn up to a ground, trying not to slip over,” said Root. “Hopefully that’ll be the last of it and nobody else will fall to the same fate.”
After opening the batting in Sri Lanka in the absence of Rory Burns, who has since returned to the squad following the birth of his first child, Crawley had been expected to move back to No 3, from where he played so impressively against Pakistan last summer. For the opening match, which starts on Friday, that position is now likely to be taken by Dan Lawrence, with Ollie Pope coming straight into the side after his recovery from injury.
“There’s a number of different combinations we can go with. I think that’s the exciting part of it – we’ve now got a number of guys who can bat in different positions,” said Root. “I think everything’s on the table as far as selection is concerned, we’ll weigh everything up when we get to the ground, look at the conditions, look at the surface again, and try to have real clarity going into the game.”
Though England arrive having won their last five away Tests, and bolstered by the returns of Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, both rested for the recent series in Sri Lanka and reported by their captain to be in fine form in training, India’s home record is formidable. They have won 28 of their 34 home Tests since England won their series there in 2012, and only lost a single match to Australia four years ago.
“We’re very realistic about where we are as a team, how we’re slowly improving over a period of time. We know this is going to be a huge challenge for us but we’re relishing that challenge, we’re looking forward to it,” said Root.
Root made his Test debut on that successful tour of India in 2012, playing a single match a few days before his 22nd birthday with his opponents including his opposite number now, Virat Kohli. Like India themselves in Australia much more recently England had lost the first match before coming back to win the series.
“I would say in 2012 there was complacency on our part,” Kohli said on Thursday. “I think it was England who played better cricket and came back strongly, and it was similar with us in Australia. I don’t think Australia let up as much as we were determined to come back and overpowered their plans and their determination.”
India’s series victory in Australia, achieved despite a succession of injuries to senior players and with Kohli himself playing only once before returning home to be present for the birth of his first child, means they come into this series with unusually inflated confidence even for a side so used to success at home.
“The team is in a really good space, everyone is really motivated to do well,” Kohli said. “If you look at our journey in the last couple of years, apart from in [last year’s two-Test series in] New Zealand where we weren’t in the contest as all, I think as a Test side we have been playing really good cricket. The motivation is to understand why we got the results and not get too carried away by the emotion or excitement of it all. The chat on day one by the whole team was to move on and focus on the next game. Everyone’s really keen to step on that field again because everyone’s playing well, everyone’s gelling really well, there’s great energy in the group, and everyone’s looking forward to getting under way.”