Lancashire’s Tom Hartley is set to make his England debut in the first Test against India in a team dominated by spinners.
Left-armer Hartley joins the established Jack Leach and teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed in an attack that suggests the tourists expect lavish turn, with Joe Root a fourth spin option.
Mark Wood has been picked as the only seam bowler in the side, meaning England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson will sit the match out in Hyderabad.
Ollie Pope, Foakes, Ahmed and Leach all come into the side having not been involved in England’s last Test against Australia at The Oval last summer.
With Wood operating best in short, rapid bursts, England are ready to embrace an entirely different rhythm of cricket. Root’s off-breaks are also likely to feature heavily and Stokes has even suggested he could open the bowling with the part-timer.
“It would be a complete and utter ‘gut’ thing, as most of my decisions like that are,” said Stokes. “You might even see Rooty taking the new ball, depending on what I feel.
“If (left-hander) Yashasvi Jaiswal opens the batting, you might see Rooty opening the bowling because it’s spinning away from the bat.”
Ben Foakes returns as wicketkeeper, with Jonny Bairstow reverting to a specialist batting role at No 5.
Surrey wicketkeeper Foakes starred against New Zealand and South Africa at the beginning of head coach Brendon McCullum’s time in charge, before being dropped for Bairstow in the Ashes series last summer.
“We all know the impact Jonny made in my first summer as captain,” Stokes said this week.
“And there’s no doubt about the skill Ben Foakes possesses with the gloves. He can not only do things other ‘keepers can’t, but also make them look incredibly easy.
“He’s a very special talent behind there and having someone like that who can maybe take a two per cent, three per cent chance, that could be massive in the series.”
England Men’s XI:
1. Zak Crawley
2. Ben Duckett
3. Ollie Pope
4. Joe Root
5. Jonny Bairstow
6. Ben Stokes (C)
7. Ben Foakes
8. Rehan Ahmed
9. Tom Hartley
10. Mark Wood
11. Jack Leach