THE most talked-about player on the eve of India’s Test tussle with England is not Virat Kohli.
Nor is it Joe Root, Ben Stokes, or Ravichandran Ashwin.
Instead, Adil Rashid has hogged the headlines after his surprise selection in the host nation’s 13-man squad for the first Test at Edgbaston.
The leg-spinner has not played a single innings of first-class county cricket this year after penning a restricted limited-overs contract at Yorkshire so he could focus his attentions on Twenty20.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan called the selection “ridiculous”, while Matthew Hoggard said it was “another kick in the teeth for county cricket”.
The controversial call comes from Ed Smith, who replaced James Whitaker as ECB chairman of selectors earlier this year.
It was Smith who recalled Jos Buttler to the Test squad on the back of Indian Premier League form, and he is hoping for similar results with Rashid.
Also back in the big smoke is allrounder Mooen Ali, who has not featured on the Test stage since his disastrous tour of Australia.
Joining them for the first time is Jamie Porter, the right-arm seamer who claimed a whopping 75 wickets last season as Essex romped to the County Championship title.
India have made one or two eyebrow-raising selections of their own.
Rohit Sharma smashed a pair of centuries in the recent ODI series, yet there is no place for the experienced slogger in the Test squad.
The Indian selectors have instead stuck with Karun Nair, who replaced Rohit after his difficult tour of South Africa earlier this year.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is absent with back trouble, leaving Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav as the front-line seamers.
And in a mirror image of Rashid’s call-up, left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav joins the 18-man touring party on the strength of his impressive displays in the 50-over games.
With old hands Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja also picked, Kuldeep’s arrival sets the scene for a three-man spin attack in a series where the slower bowlers are expected to play a significant role.
England squad: Joe Root (C), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Sam Curran, Keaton Jennings, Dawid Malan, Jamie Porter, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes.
India squad: Virat Kohli (C), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Lokesh Rahul, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav.
England vs. India series betting
Despite all the selection drama, most of the money is behind England to win the series.
Online bookmaker 888sport.com is quoting -142.86 for the hosts to exact revenge for the 4-0 drubbing they endured on their last tour of the subcontinent.
Concerns over the strength and experience of India’s middle order sees the visitors offering +210 to conquer the United Kingdom for the first time since 2007.
The scales are balanced only a little better for the first Test in Birmingham, which starts Wednesday, August 1.
A 3-1 win to the Brits is the popular option in correct score betting, although there is also some support for a 2-2 draw at +650 odds.
England – +100
Draw – +325
India – +205
England – -142.86
Draw – +550
India – +210
England -1.5 – +130
India +1.5 – -175.01
Series correct score
England 5-0 – +1300
England 4-1 – +850
England 4-0 – +850
England 3-2 – +900
England 3-1 – +600
England 3-0 – +1100
England 2-1 – +900
England 2-0 – +2200
England 1-0 – +10000
Draw 2-2 – +650
Draw 1-1 – +1700
Draw 0-0 – +25000
India 1-0 – +10000
India 2-0 – +4000
India 2-1 – +1300
India 3-0 – +3300
India 3-1 – +1100
India 3-2 – +1100
India 4-0 – +3300
India 4-1 – +2800
India 5-0 – +10000
England vs. India tour fixtures
First Test – August 1-5 at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Second Test – August 9-13 at Lord’s, London
Third Test – August 18-22 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Fourth Test – Aug 30-Sep 3 at Rose Bowl, Southampton
Fifth Test – September 7-11 at The Oval, London
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