ANI Photo | Ben Stokes ‘stripping fit’ as he prepares to lead England in Tests against India

Ahead of the much-anticipated five-match Test series against India, England coach Brendon McCullum said red-ball captain Ben Stokes appears “stripping fit” as he prepares to lead Three Lions against hosts at the “land of opportunity.”
The five-match Test series between India and England begins on January 25 in Hyderabad with the next four matches to be played in Vizag, Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamsala.
The England Test captain underwent surgery on his left knee at the end of November, just after the ODI World Cup, in order to make into the squad.
“Ben Stokes looks like a greyhound, he’s stripping fit. He’s put the hard work in and everyone knows his work ethic is phenomenal,” said coach McCullum ahead of the five-match series as quoted by Skysports.
“I’ve seen him running around and I think he’s good to go. We’ll obviously make that call as late as what we need to. But he’s put all the work in and we’ll just have to wait and see,” he added.
McCullum is focusing on balancing England’s Test squad after Harry Brook returned home for personal reasons, with Surrey’s Dan Lawrence gaining a call-up. Meanwhile, wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was called up after being left out of the Ashes squad earlier this year. Jonny Bairstow is the team’s other wicketkeeper.
The wickets in India are likely to create lots of spin, allowing Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir to make their Test debuts. Debutants Hartley and Bashir were both part of the England Lions squad that trained in the United Arab Emirates last month.
“What balance we go for in terms of the side we’ll work out in the coming days, but the thing we need to be is really brave with whatever we decide,” McCullum said.
“India is the land of opportunity and that’s what sits in front of us now, we’ll take the positive option. Other teams might be better, but we want to be the bravest. We’ve got to do that and that’s got to be factored into selection, too,” said the England coach.
McCullum feels that the training camp has given the England squad a “bulletproof” attitude when they face the world’s second-best Test side.
“The guys walked away from Abu Dhabi with a huge amount of confidence that we’ve prepared as well as we possibly can. In the end all you’re trying to do is get guys in the frame of mind where they feel 10 foot tall and bulletproof when they walk out to play,” McCullum said.
“We’ve got to take 20 wickets with the ball in each Test and we’ve got to get one more run than them with the bat. It’s not rocket science but it will be the nuances of the game and when to stick and when to twist which will be the fascinating part,” he added.
Meanwhile, on Monday, India’s batting lynchpin Virat Kohli requested to be withdrawn from the squad for the first two Tests due to personal reasons.
England Test squad for India series: Ben Stokes (C), James Anderson, Rehan Ahmed, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoib Bashir, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes (Wk), Dan Lawrence, Tom Hartley, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood. (ANI)

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