The four-match Test series between India and England beginning in Chennai from February 5 and is expected one of the most closely fought series in the lead up to World Test Championships (WTC) final later this year. Team India fought heroically in Australia to post a 2-1 series in spite of a plethora of injuries while England are coming off a 2-0 series whitewash over Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
However, cricket and sports in general in 2021 has to deal with the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic with hard quarantines and bio-bubbles in place almost all year round for some cricketers. Former England batsman Owais Shah was part of one such bio-bubble while he was commentating on England's two-match Test series in Galle.
In an exclusive interview with Zee News English, Shah gives insights into what it is like for the cricketers to stay in bio-bubble and his views on how the India-England Test series will pan out. "Staying in bio-bubble is very tough. I myself was in one such bubble although I was only doing television commentary. But we have to remember what kind of world we live in at the moment and cricketers have to count themselves lucky that they are even allowed to play sports and do something that earns them a living," Shah told Zee News English from Dubai on Friday (January 29).
"That's why I believe that it is essential that international cricketers should get a longer break between fixtures, in order to provide them more time with their family -- before entering into the bio-bubble. I know it is hard to achieve with fixtures planned years in advance but ICC should make an effort to achieve this," Shah added.
There is a school of thought that the number of injuries that Team India had to deal with on their recent tour to Australia might also be from the fact that players were restricted to spending their time in their rooms. Shah believes that 'inactiveness' of cricketers might be the reasons behind number of injuries to the likes of Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah.
"India is probably one of the fewer countries to have suffered so many injuries on a cricket tour. It is a fact that when you are largely stuck in a room, one tends to become become inactive by mostly sitting or lying down. This inactiveness can lead to injuries as well. To deal with this, I know a lot of cricketers are training in their rooms to keep fit," the 42-year-old former England batsman said.
Coming back to the India series, Shah felt that England will realise that Virat Kohli's side will be a whole different kettle of fish as compared to Sri Lanka. England skipper Joe Root was in sensational form scoring two big tons in Galle and will be playing his 100th Test in Chennai.
"Root has been in outstanding form for England and along with Ben Stokes, he is going to be one of the two batsmen who hold the key to England's success in this series. I would have added Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow to the list as well but they are not taking part in the entire series," Shah felt.
"With the ball (James) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad's form will be crucial and how they match up to the likes of (Virat) Kohli, Rohit Sharma and the new kid Shubman Gill will be interesting. When it comes to top match-ups, I would say it has to be Root vs Ashwin or Bumrah against Root and Stokes," Shah, who turned out in six Tests and 71 ODIs for England, said.
England spinner Jack Leach and Dominic Bess were impressive against the Lankans but Shah doesn't expect them to hold a big sway over the Indian batsmen.
"Bess and Leach are not big names when it comes to international spinners and I am sure they will get the same kind of rewards. Even if you add Moeen Ali to the mix, it will be tough for Indian spinners in India.
"I believe India should lay out good batting surfaces rather than rank turners. So my prediction for series result in the four-match series would be 2-1 to India," Shah concluded.