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 while wearing spikes, since when a more permanent floor covering has been installed in an attempt to prevent further injuries. Root said: “It’s not something you first think about when you turn up to a ground, trying not to slip over. 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.
Root said: “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. 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.”
India’s recent series success in Australia, achieved despite a string of injuries to senior players, has demonstrated that such setbacks need not be decisive. “I think a lot of sides will be looking at that series and taking huge amounts of confidence from it,” said Root. “Huge credit to India for going there and winning. Teams will see that it’s possible to go and win away from home, and there is a lot of pressure on sides hosting.
“We should embrace the challenge, it should excite us. There’s so many opportunities that come with that, as a side and as individual players – when you’re given an opportunity to play you just have to maximise that opportunity. One thing we’ve had in the recent past is that competition for places, a bit more depth within our squad and not such heavy reliance on certain individuals, which might have been the case a few years ago. It’s really exciting times and guys have just got to really grab these opportunities if they get them.”
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 Tests in India since England won 2-1 there in 2012, in which time they have lost a single home match, to Australia four years ago.
“Off the back of those two games in Sri Lanka we’ve gained a huge amount of confidence,” Root said. “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. We’ve got to concentrate on what we think’s going to be the best way of winning out here, and try to execute that as best as possible. You want to play against the best teams in the world, you want to do well in their own conditions, and it’s a huge opportunity for the group.”