England captain Ben Stokes compared to a ‘greyhound’ after proving fitness ahead of India series

Ben Stokes looks ready to lead England at the start of its Test cricket series against India, with coach Brendon McCullum saying Monday his captain “looks like a greyhound.”

“He’s stripping fit,” McCullum said of Stokes, who underwent knee surgery at the end of November after playing for England at the Cricket World Cup.

The five-match series begins Thursday with the first Test in Hyderabad. McCullum stopped short of confirming Stokes as a definite starter but said he has “put all the work in.”

“He’s put the hard work in and everyone knows his work ethic is phenomenal,” McCullum said. “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.”

Stokes is not ready to resume bowling so will be a specialist batter, if he plays.

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It will be England’s first Test match in almost six months and it’s quite the challenge, with the Indians having lost just three matches out of 46 since they were last beaten in a home series — to England in 2012.

McCullum said he’s willing to be “really brave” with his selection on a pitch that is expected to offer plenty of turn, with England having brought an inexperienced spin unit featuring rookies Rehan Ahmed, Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir alongside the established Jack Leach.

“India is the land of opportunity and that’s what sits in front of us now,” McCullum said.

“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.”

With Harry Brook absent for personal reasons, England seems set to restore Ben Foakes as wicketkeeper. Jonny Bairstow could also take the gloves but might be a specialist batter.

McCullum made no apologies for his decision to host a training camp in Abu Dhabi rather than play warmup games on Indian soil.

“The preparation was brilliant. The facilities out there are as good as anywhere in the world,” he said. “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.”

India will be without star batter Virat Kohli for the first two Tests for personal reasons.

Source website: sportstar.thehindu.com

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