Michael Atherton and Harbhajan Singh make predictions for India v England Test series

Ex-England captain Michael Atherton believes India are overwhelming favourites (Picture: Getty)

Michael Atherton has backed India to get the better of England in the sides’ upcoming five-match Test series and predicts spin bowling will ‘play a big part’ in the result.

Ben Stokes and co are preparing for one of their toughest challenges yet since Brendon McCullum took charge 18 months ago, with England failing to win in India since as far back as 2012.

The tourists enter the contest without one of their brightest talents after it was announced this weekend that Harry Brook – a mainstay of the Bazball era – had been forced to withdraw from the tour due to ‘personal reasons’.

Surrey’s Dan Lawrence has been called up in Brook’s place and will travel to India in the next 24 hours ahead of the opening Test at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, starting on Thursday.

Jack Leach, England’s frontline spinner, will be under the spotlight as he returns from injury in India, where spin bowling has so often proved decisive down the years.

Off-spinners Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir, both uncapped at Test level, are also likely to feature at some stage in the series, as well as Rehan Ahmed, who made his debut against Pakistan in 2022.

Asked for his prediction, Atherton told Sky Sports: ‘I think India will win.

Zak Crawley, Harry Brook and Ben Stokes clap England fans

England will be without batsman Brook in India (Picture: Getty)

‘I think their spinners are better than England’s, and that will be the defining thing in the end.

‘If you go to India, spin will play a big part, it historically has done and I suspect it always will do. India do have a very strong seam attack as well.

‘India’s four spinners are very different to England’s. They have two left-arm finger spinners in Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.

‘They have a wrist spinner in Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin is one of the greatest spinners of all time.’

Leach’s bowling will be under the microscope in India (Picture: Getty)

The ex-England captain feels Hartley, Bashir and Ahmed have a serious ‘challenge’ in store but is confident the trio could all have a big future in the Test arena.

‘England have a solid left-arm spinner in Jack Leach and then three very inexperienced spinners after that with Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir and Rehan Ahmed,’ Atherton added.

‘It will be a particular challenge for them but the selectors see a high ceiling for them.’

Hussain and Atherton feel England are in for an enormous challenge (Picture: Getty)

Nasser Hussain was in agreement with his former England team-mate and Sky Sports colleague that hosts India head into the series as the overwhelming favourites.

‘England are favourites with out a doubt. Those stats, with their record at home in Test match cricket,’ Hussain said.

‘But every single challenge that Bazball has faced, whether it be up front, South Africa bowling attack, New Zealand, Ashes, whatever challenge they face they’ve said, “Right we’re going to stick to our guns and this is the way we’re going about it!”

‘Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s record is more than decent, it is seriously good, so I wouldn’t write off this England side but India are definitely favourites.’

Harbhajan doubts Bazball will succeed in India (Picture: Getty)

Harbhajan Singh, meanwhile, believes England ‘don’t have a chance’ if spin bowling proves to be the difference across the five matches.

‘Bazball won’t work. The conditions are going to be pretty difficult for England,’ ex-India star Harbhajan told The Times of India.

‘Pitches will turn from the first day, and if you have an accurate spinner, he will take wickets.

‘On both sides, actually. Toss becomes pretty important on such wickets.

‘I don’t think England have a chance unless there isn’t much to offer for spinners.’


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