Cook, Haseeb ready for England vs. India series
RAJKOT, India (AP) Opener Alastair Cook is approaching a test record as England captain while fellow opener Haseeb Hameed is on the verge of a test debut as the tourists seek to strengthen their top order for a testing series against India.
The England tour of India was cleared to take place at the last minute on Tuesday – 24 hours before the first test toss – when the country's supreme court and the Board of Control for Cricket in India settled a financial dispute.
The BCCI filed a late plea in the Supreme Court to release funds for hosting the five-test series. The supreme court agreed to allow the BCCI to withdraw 5.87 million rupees to fund the series.
Indian cricket has been in turmoil since a ruling by the Supreme Court into the domestic administration of the game. The BCCI was asked to submit an affidavit stating that it will fully comply with recommendations made by a judicial committee before a three-test series against New Zealand last month.
That didn't happen, but the three tests and five limited-overs internationals proceeded as scheduled.
Since then, the committee had become more stringent and halted the distribution of funds by the Indian cricket board to its state associations until they comply fully with the reforms.
BCCI president Anurag Thakur submitted an affidavit this week but it stated that the the board and its state associations could not fully comply with all recommendations
On the eve of a major test series, the legal move by the BCCI was perceived as an attempt to push the reform-minded Lodha committee onto the back foot.
In just about every other way, preparations for the very first test at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot in western India were complete before the court hearing on Tuesday.
England is coming off an embarrassing loss in Bangladesh, but skipper Cook is aiming for yet another record. Already the most capped player for England, with 135, and the leading test scorer with 10,688 runs, he will break the record he shares with Mike Atherton as England test captain when he leads the team for the 55th time.
He has already said 19-year-old Hameed will make his debut at the expense of Gary Ballance, making him the youngest opening partner Cook has ever had.
''It is time to give a young guy his opportunity,'' Cook said Tuesday. ''Haseeb hasn't been overawed during his time so far with this squad. He is a natural run-scorer and looks to be more experienced than his age suggests.''
The inclusion of Hameed would push Ben Duckett down to No. 4. Duckett scored a half century against Bangladesh but did not impress.
The bowling attack will also be overhauled. James Anderson has re-joined the England squad but is unavailable for selection. That leaves Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes to lead the pace attack, while Moeen Ali could share the spin duties with recalled Gareth Batty and Adil Rashid.
England is the only foreign team to win a test series on Indian soil – in 2012-13 – since Australia in 2004-05, and has beaten India in three consecutive series.
''We can only look forward to what we can do in the future,'' India skipper Virat Kohli said. ''We want to win series, and we want to win test matches.''
The Indian skipper didn't reveal his playing XI, though he doesn't have many tough decisions to make.
Gautam Gambhir is expected to open with Murali Vijay, while the only difficult choice would be over the make-up of the bowling attack.
Ishant Sharma is fit for selection, while Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami are back after being rested for the ODIs against New Zealand.
India opted for a four-bowler attack during the New Zealand test series, and could aim to do the same again. If that's the case, Karun Nair could make his debut and bat at No. 6.
One of the most significant selections of the series will be the use of DRS for the first time in a test series on Indian soil.
The adoption of the Decision Review System, using technology to review umpiring decisions, marks a new chapter of harmony in test cricket across the world. India had previously refused to accept DRS.