Hyderabad, Jan 25: England captain Ben Stokes has won the toss and elected to bat first against India in the Test series opener at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Thursday.
England, who are yet to lose a Test series under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum since embracing the attacking approach of playing the game in May 2022, are aiming to get a series win in India for the first time since the 2-1 triumph in 2012/13 season.
In the 2021 tour, England had won the opening Test in Chennai, but lost the next three games to lose the series 3-1 to India. India, on the other hand, are unbeaten in 16 home Test series after the 2-1 loss to England.
England have fielded three spinners, including a debutant in left-arm spinner Tom Hartley. "Not sure what you gonna get, bat and get a big score. Know the challenge India presents. This is an opportunity to do something special. Tom Hartley debuts, Rehan Ahmed plays his second Test and Jack Leach leads our spin department. Got full confidence in them. Wood is that x-factor bowler," said Stokes.
The pitch at Hyderabad gave a dry look, with the edges being drier due to selective watering and middle area being greener. Meanwhile, India have selected KS Bharat as their wicketkeeper, and have included Axar Patel as the third spinner, though Rohit admitted it was very difficult to leave Kuldeep Yadav out of the playing eleven. The match also marks the 50th Test match appearance for KL Rahul.
"We would've batted first as well. Looks dry, played in these conditions a fair but to understand what we need to do. Got the skills, got guys who can do the job. Playing a five-Test series for the first time, guys were excited about it. Will be challenging, we're up for it.
"Had a few days to prepare, played in these conditions before, know what to expect. Axar is the third spinner. Tough on Kuldeep, spoke a lot about it, but Axar has done well whenever he's played, gives us batting depth," added Rohit.
In a squad update, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said uncapped fast-bowler Avesh Khan has been released to play the next round of Ranji Trophy for his team Madhya Pradesh, who will be facing Puducherry, on January 26.
It also said Madhya Pradesh top-order batter Rajat Patidar, who made his ODI debut last month, has joined the Test team as Virat Kohli's replacement for the first two matches of the series, after the latter pulled out due to personal reasons.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj
England: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley, Mark Wood, and Jack Leach