Source: Gareth Copley - ECB/ECB via Getty Images

India v England – Test Match preview

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The first question we have to ask is: how serious are national boards and the ICC about increasing the number of tests?

While you hear that wish expressed on all sides, the effects at ground level are far harder to perceive. For example, the coming test at the Dr DY Patil Sports Academy, Mumbai is a 4-dayer, not a 5. Why?

Second, why is England’s only accompaniment to the big match a series of T20s? They are no sort of proper preparation for the noblest form of the game.

Third: England haven’t played a multi-day game on the subcontinent for eighteen years. I pause to gasp. Fourth: India will be playing their first test since 2014. Are the BCCI, the ECB and the ICC really committed to test cricket?

It leaves Heather Knight admitting concern, even nervousness about possible outcomes. That is not typical fighting talk from such an experienced captain.

Some of her squad (see below) have been hunting for their best form in the shorter forms of the game. But does that indicate vulnerability when batters can stay at the crease for hours on end, and bowlers can wheel away for a two-hour session?

To my mind England selections for the last two tests played have been at fault. Quite apart from the ludicrous burden placed on Sophie Ecclestone’s shoulders (one of which is recovering from a dislocation), Danni Wyatt, allowed a test debut at the age of 32, found herself having to hold the fort as England’s batting collapsed around her. That has never been her forte.

England have a squad of fifteen to choose from. They comprise:

Heather Knight (captain), Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Alice Capsey, Kate Cross, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Lauren Filer, Kirstie Gordon, Bess Heath, Amy Jones (w-k), Nat Sciver-Brunt, Danni Wyatt

They include nine batters, two, possibly three of whom can expect to turn their arm, a keeper who has batted in the top order, a reserve keeper who bats strongly, but no obvious partner for Tammy Beaumont to open proceedings. Emma Lamb, who might have been first choice, has sadly had to return home injured.

There is a total of nine bowlers who might hope to get the call. Most types are included, but the only wrist spinner is Sophia Dunkley, as it’s Sarah Glenn’s turn to be discarded.

Much depends on who else is left out of the fifteen. England have the advantage of two really pacy bowlers, the two Laurens, of whom Bell can produce disconcerting swing. Filer now ranks among the quickest in world cricket. In the spin department we have two left-arm slows, Kirstie Gordon added to the inevitable Ecclestone, and two off-spinners, Charlie Dean and Alice Capsey.

But England selectors have shown themselves strangely unwilling to employ spinners. We shall see how far that strategy alters on a potentially dusty track in Mumbai.

England supporters can only hope that Knight’s misgivings are ill-founded. But it’s nine years since England last won a test match – far too long.

India squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Richa Ghosh (wk), Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Yastika Bhatia, Harleen Deol, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur, Meghna Singh, Titas Sadhu, Saika Ishaque, Satheesh Shubha

Match details: 14-17 December, starting at 04.00 GMT.