The five-match series against India signifies the start of ten of the most important Tests that many in the England squad will face and every player will be tackling some tough questions.

England arrive in the series without their vice-captain and number two-ranked all-rounder in the world, Ben Stokes. Beating this Indian side led by Virat Kohli will not be easy, but they will have to do it, and do it convincingly, to have any hope of Ashes success later this year.

Root to lead his men home

A lot of this series will depend on how the senior players perform, on both sides, and shouldering the full weight of that responsibility for England will be captain Joe Root. With the absence of his batting, bowling, and fielding stalwart Stokes, Root will be left to pick up the mantel and inspire his team to victory. However, the reinforced pressure comes not just from a home series against India but that everyone, players included, will have one eye on the Ashes and selection for it. Test careers are quite literally on the line here.

Root, currently tied with Michael Vaughan as the Test captain of England with most wins, will know that the next ten Tests will define his captaincy and legacy. For all his success steering England to 26 Test victories, he has never lifted the urn and this series against India will likely determine whether his side are capable of doing just that against a formidable Australian attack on home soil later in the year.

There will be trials and tribulations in every department in this India series from England’s bowling attack, which still heavily relies upon the aging Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, to the unsettled top-order batsmen, which is yet to recover from the loss of the core unit of years gone by. Finally, England are still without a world-class spin option, and weather depending obviously, this will be a serious factor against India, who have two at their disposable, even with Washington Sundar’s omission through injury.

Despite these concerns, England are still the favourites to claim a series victory at 4/5, but if that is to happen there will need to be a markedly improved performance from the one that was seen against New Zealand in their last series, albeit for only two Tests. Since then, the focus of English cricket has been firmly on the white ball and the return to red-ball cricket will be a cause of concern for players out of match practice with limited opportunities in the County Championship.

Kohli hungry for a win in England  

India have been successful under captain Kohli’s regime, that cannot be denied.  However, that all important series win in England has eluded him thus far. Kohli, being the character he is, will unlikely be phased by this and instead will use it to spur him and his troops on to victory. Those troops, with the notable admission of Rishabh Pant, are on the most part an experienced and highly tested group. The bowling department particularly will certainly be putting the fear amongst England’s top order.

The Indian seam department, including, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, is to be feared as much as their spin attack that boasts Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. This alone would make it a tricky series for England even under home conditions, but paired with a batting line-up that includes the names Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli then makes for an uphill battle for the home side.

The visitors, despite this, can be backed as 5/1 underdogs to claim the series victory, and for the aforementioned reasons, this doesn’t appear a bad price. The draw, however, is a 13/8 chance and of the three outcomes available in the series can certainly be considered a leading chance.

One thing that is for certain, though, is that with so many players under pressure and so much on the line, a thrilling series is inevitable, as long as the weather allows that is.

Check out all the latest cricket betting odds at William Hill