Fresh off winning this year’s Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates, India will be looking to extend their success in the test arena as they prepare to host the West Indies in a two-match series. A tough tour of England saw India comprehensively defeated 4-1 in the test series, and you can bet this time around that Virat Kohli will do everything in his power to drag his team across the line.
With some of their star players needing a well-earned rest, or in Hardik Pandya’s case sidelined due to injury, it will be fascinating to see how this Indian XI takes shape in the first test at Rajkot. Opening batsman KL Rahul was among a handful of others to miss out on India’s Asia Cup victory last month, in fact he played just one game in which he scored 60 against Afghanistan. Many are saying the 26-year-old was a bit stiff to miss out, he’s managed just 13 ODI’s since debuting back in 2016. That’s not to say Rahul has been starved of opportunities though, the prolific opener has featured in 29 tests since his debut in 2014 where he’s managed to rack up 1811 runs at 38.53. With Shikhar Dhawan absent from the side, the question on everyone’s mind is ‘who will KL Rahul’s opening partner be for the first test?’. Mayank Agarwal has been added to India’s test squad after dominating the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy where he compiled 1160 runs in 13 innings at a whopping average of 105.45. On the other hand, 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw has been just as impressive in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and India A’s tour of England where he produced two quality centuries. Unfortunately for Shaw, he missed out in a tour match against the West Indies recently whereas Agarwal was able to put 90 runs on the board which could be the deciding factor. Expect both Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara to dominate in these two upcoming tests, they are both lethal batsmen on home soil and have the statistics to back it up. The door of opportunity opens up for 30-year-old seamer Umesh Yadav who featured in just one test against England in August, a big reason for that is the decision to rest Jasprit Bumrah. The spinners will be out in full force featuring the likes of Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and possibly even Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep didn’t feature very prevalently in the England tour given the surface, but his bowling should thrive on these Indian wickets. Ravi Ashwin was another who didn’t have a very successful test series against India apart from the first test, although the Windies will find it hard to negate the off-spinner in these particular conditions. It will be interesting to see if India opt for three spinners in this match, that would leave them with just two specialist seamers which seems highly-unlikely.
The touring Windies will be hoping to put up a strong fight against the No. 1 ranked test team in the world, but their ranking which hovers just above Bangladesh at 8th leaves a lot to be desired. As a cricketing nation, they’ve been sliding for some time now which could have something to do with the WICB contracts saga, or just simply a lack of talent coming through since cutting off the likes of Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Sunil Narine. They do however look to be getting back that competitive spirit which has been missing in previous years, skipper Jason Holder has been bowling fiery spells and has been rewarded for his effort, while opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite continues to thrive on the added pressure to perform against the new ball with that cherry-red face of his bat. Back-to-back centuries against Bangladesh saw Brathwaite help his side to a series victory over the Tigers 2-0, but it was Holder who registered dual five-wicket hauls (5/44 & 6/59) in the second test at Sabina Park which proved to be the knockout blow. They’ll need more than Jason Holder and Kraigg Brathwaite to defeat India on their home turf though, and without the leader of their bowling attack Kemar Roach, it’s going to make things more difficult. Thankfully the Windies still have right-arm quick Shannon Gabriel who has been in relatively good form in red-ball cricket. The 30-year-old produced a memorable bowling display back in June against Sri Lanka where he claimed a total of 13 wickets in the second test, eight of which that came in the second innings. After stunning campaign in this year’s CPL, middle order batsmen Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer could give India a run for their money in they’re not switched on mentally. Hope is becoming a vital part of this West Indies outfit, while Hetmyer looks to have a bright future in International cricket with two ODI centuries to his name already after just 12 matches. Lastly and most importantly, the West Indies MUST take a specialist spinner into this match if they are any chance of challenge India. Leggy-Devendra Bishoo looks to be to likely option, although slow left-armer Jomel Warrican remains an outside chance to play.
Top 5 fantasy picks | India | 1st test | Rajkot
- Virat Kohli
- Cheteshwar Pujara
- Ravi Ashwin
- Mohammed Shami
- KL Rahul
Wildcard pick – Ravindra Jadeja
Top 5 fantasy picks | West Indies | 1st test | Rajkot
- Kraigg Brathwaite
- Devendra Bishoo
- Shai Hope
- Shannon Gabriel
- Shimron Hetmyer
Wildcard pick – Roston Chase
India (possible) – 1. KL Rahul 2. Mayank Agarwal/Prithvi Shaw 3. Cheteshwar Pujara 4. Virat Kohli © 5. Ajinkya Rahane 6. Rishabh Pant (wk) 7. Ravindra Jadeja/Hanuma Vihari 8. Ravi Ashwin 9. Mohammed Siraj/Shardul Thakur 10. Mohammed Shami 11. Umesh Yadav.
West Indies (possible) – 1. Kraigg Brathwaite 2. Kieran Powell 3. Shai Hope 4. Shimron Hetmyer 5. Roston Chase 6. Sunil Ambris 7. Shane Dowrich (wk) 8. Jason Holder © 9. Keemo Paul 10. Devendra Bishoo 11. Shannon Gabriel.