Brendon McCullum insists England are ready to be “really brave” with their team selection for the first Test against India, leaning into one of the biggest challenges in cricket.
England’s red-ball team are back in action for the first time in almost six months on Thursday, beginning a five-match tour in Hyderabad.
India have been dominant on home soil over the past decade and have lost only three matches out of 46 since they last lost a series, to Sir Alastair Cook’s England in 2012.
“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,” he 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.”
Ben Stokes is set to the lead the side, with England content over his rehabilitation from knee surgery. The captain left a private clinic on crutches at the end of November, setting up a race against time to be fit, and has been chronicling his recovery on social media.
He is not ready to resume bowling but McCullum is confident he is ready for action as skipper and specialist batter.
“He looks like a greyhound. He’s stripping fit,” he said.
“He’s put the hard work in and everyone knows his work ethic is phenomenal. 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.”
With Harry Brook absent for personal reasons, England seem set to restore Ben Foakes as wicketkeeper. He and Jonny Bairstow, who took the gloves during the Ashes last summer, are both due to play but it was Foakes who took a long keeping drill during Monday’s practice.
“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.
“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.”