If we look at the rankings of the two sides, India is number one in the world, and West Indies are ranked 8th. That would point to an easy series for the top-ranked side but the truth is far from it. West Indies at home are a different proposition. The team under Jason Holder has been pulling out some brilliant results at home in Tests and their recent series win against England is a reminder that India isn’t going to have it easy. The last time these two played in the Caribbean, India won the series 2-0 and since then the hosts have matured into a much cohesive Test unit. Here is the match preview 1st test of IND VS WI.
The bowling attack has been the reason for West Indies’ rise at home. Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach were brilliant and even though they will be missing Alzzari Joseph the hosts will have a solid bowling attack. The batting of the West Indies is a problem though and they will rely a lot on Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite to give them some solidity at the top. Darren Bravo will return to control the middle order for the hosts. Roston Chase who had a great time against England will be the spinner and it will be interesting if the hosts will include Rahkeem Cornwall in the playing XI.
India though does have a reasonably settled Test lineup. They would be missing Prithvi Shaw for the second series in a row which means KL Rahul gets an extended run or Virat might push Hanuma Vihari to open as he did against Australia earlier this year. Cheteshwar Pujara will be India’s number three followed by Virat Kohli at number 4. This is where all the confusion for the Indian team begins. Virat at the start of his captaincy tenure has been a strict advocate of a five bowler strategy but over the last year or so he has moved away from it. In the absence of Hardik Pandya, one of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin have to play as an all-rounder but the number 6 spot is something that might be something to discuss for the Indian contingent.
Ajinkya Rahane will mostly play at number 5 and considering his poor form recently for India and for Hampshire in county cricket, he will be hoping for some good scores in this series. The bowling attack will see the return of the successful trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami as the pacers and the spin bowling is still up for grabs and will most likely be between Ashwin and Jadeja.
Rishabh Pant should take the wicket-keeping spot at the start despite the return of Wriddhiman Saha to the Test squad.
Virat Kohli (India): Virat Kohli has an ordinary record in West Indies in Tests. He has so far scored just 327 runs in 9 innings at 36. He began the 2016 series with a 200 but the rest of the series was very ordinary for the Indian captain. He would like to correct that and in a batting lineup that is unsettled, he would be expected to lead from the front.
Jasprit Bumrah (India): Jasprit Bumrah hasn’t played a Test match against West Indies yet but again there wouldn’t be many who would bet against him doing well here as well. He has had a brilliant start to his Test career with 49 wickets at 21 in 10 Tests and he will once again be the spearhead of the Indian pace attack.
Kraigg Brathwaite (West Indies): Brathwaite is an extremely talented bat for West Indies and one of the crucial members for the hosts at the top of the order. Even though he has been struggling over the past couple of years with the bat, West Indies will be hoping that he would rise up to the challenge in this series against India and provide them with the solid starts they require to challenge this Indian team.
Shannon Gabriel (West Indies): Shannon Gabriel has grown leaps and bounds over the past couple of years with the ball for West India. A tall fast bowler he can bowl the heavy ball and trouble the batters with pace and disconcerting bounce. He was lethal against England earlier this year and West Indies will be hoping that he brings the same intensity against India as well. Gabriel has been phenomenal in the last 18 months taking 46 wickets at 21.
What did they say?
“Well, if I have to be brutally honest, I don’t think us batsmen have lived up to the standard. We have traveled a lot over the past year and a half and it’s been challenging. We lost in England but won in Australia because the batsmen pulled up. As much as individuals stand out, I think it’s about batting well as a team and every team wants to put up a strong total on the board for the bowlers to come in and capitalize.” said Virat Kohli about Indian batting troubles over the past year in Tests.
“I think over the last two-three years, our fast bowlers have really led us. They’ve done everything I can ask of them, particularly Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, who have probably led our bowling attack for the last two-three years. It’s just a matter for them to stay hungry and stay fit and I think they’ve set a really good example for the other fast bowlers to follow.” said captain Jason Holder, hoping his fast men can make an impact against India.
Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul/Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravi Ashwin/Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
West Indies XI:
Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer/Shamarh Brooks, Shane Dowrich, Roston Chase, Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach.
This will be an interesting series as both teams are coming off a long layoff from five-day cricket. Even though India is the number one team in the world they have lots to think about and their XI isn’t something that is settled in Tests at the moment. Both the captains will have lots on their minds and this series will be a hard-fought one. The team which bats better will have the edge.