India is expected to use all the 18 players in the squad since the game doesn't have first-class status. Though Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay are expected to start as openers but KL Rahul will be looking to continue his progress and give the team some happy headaches about the composition of the final playing XI. Vijay has a good record in England but Dhawan's woes with the red ball, especially outside the sub-continent, have been apparent for quite some time. His place may well come under the scanner if he fails to get going against Essex.
The middle-order looks settled with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane expected to start. Rahane and Pujara have already had some experience of the conditions, with Rahane having played for India A and Pujara having a county stint with Yorkshire. Kohli will be looking to get a good hit in the middle after a neck injury forced him to skip county commitments with Surrey.
Dinesh Karthik will also be keen to find some form after warming the bench for most part of the limited overs series. Injury to first-choice keeper Wriddhiman Saha means that Karthik is expected to get the nod over Rishabh Pant unless India pull a rabbit out of the hat.
It's the bowling department where places are still up for grabs with injuries to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. Both will miss the first Test and that means Ishant Sharma will have to lead the attack along with Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami. The game will also allow new recruit Shardul Thakur the chance to impress the think tank and make a case for Test selection.
The spinners too will be under the microscope with Kuldeep Yadav's wrist spin giving England plenty of trouble in the limited-overs format. Though, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been India's go to spinners in Test cricket but chorus of Yadav's inclusion has been growing louder by the day. Whether India go with a combination of two spinners and three pacers a or with only one spinner and four pacers is something the management will have to decide, making this game an audition of sorts for the bowling group.
Essex will be without its star player Alastair Cook and they are unlikely to give India much of an idea of what to expect but for Kohli and his team, the game will offer a perfect opportunity to get into the Test groove ahead of a gruelling schedule, where the team will play five Tests in six weeks.
First Published: July 24, 2018, 8:33 PM IST