Ben Stokes's decision to pull out of the Test series against India due to mental health concerns and fractured finger may hurt England since he is their ace all-rounder.
However, the home side still has more options than India in that department.
Even as India's pace bowling all-rounder option in Hardik Pandya remains unfit to perform Test duties and has been playing only limited overs cricket, England have Sam Curran, who turned out to be the difference in the last series against India at home.
On the 2018 trip, it was Curran who tilted balance in England's favour, scoring 272 runs at 38.86 and scalping 11 wickets. Importantly, he came up with key contributions which swung the game away from India. He was the Player of the Match in the first Test.
In Stokes's place, England have called up Craig Overton, who is yet to play a Test match but has done all-round duties in county cricket.
The 27-year-old right-arm pace bowler and batsman has played 102 first-class matches, taking 359 wickets and scoring 2,871 runs with a century and 13 fifties.
England also have Mark Wood, a pace bowler who can bat and has a Test fifty.
Although India have all-round options in Ravindra Jadeja but a seam bowling all-rounder is crucial in England. At best, India can opt for pace bowler Shardul Thakur who made a crucial half-century in the fourth and final Test against Australia in Brisbane and also took wickets.
Former India all-rounders Madan Lal and Manoj Prabhakar had recently pointed out the need to have pace bowling all-rounders in English conditions.
"A seam-bowling all-rounder brings a lot of balance to a squad overseas, especially in England. If you have a bowling all-rounder -- say like Kapil Dev -- he will get you wickets and score 40-50 runs, maybe even a 100. Those 40-50 runs can mean a partnership of 100," Lal, who was part of India's 1983 World Cup-winning squad, had told IANS this month.
"Whenever we have done well in England, we have done well on the back of good pace bowling all-round options. In 1986, we had Roger Binny, Kapil Dev, Madan Lal and Mohinder Amarnath along with me. There were so many options to pick from," Prabhakar had said to IANS at the same time recalling the three-Test series that India won 2-0.
Stokes, however, is a match-winner and it may be difficult for anyone else to match his ability. The fact that a seam bowling all-rounder could play a key role is evident from the fact that England did not call up their more experienced spin bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali and instead trusted Overton for the job.
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