India to begin their Test Championship journey in Antigua
After achieving clinical victories in the limited-overs format, India will be looking forward to the Test series against the West Indies, which will also mark the start of both team’s journeys in the World Test Championship.
The first Test match is scheduled to begin from the 22nd of August at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at Antigua. India have good memories of the ground having won their previous game here in 2016 by an innings and 92 runs.
With Prithvi Shaw out of action for the next few months and Murali Vijay dropped, Mayank Agarwal will continue opening the batting. While KL Rahul was dropped midway in the Australian tour, Hanuma Vihari was tried at the top by the management.
Hence it will be interesting to see if India decide to persist with Vihari or bring the experienced campaigner in Rahul who has a decent record here. Vihari also scored a solid 55 and 118* in his last outing for India ‘A’ against West Indies A, hence raising stakes for his inclusion.
Cheteshwar Pujara seems to be in a good nick with a century in the practice game and would want to erase his memories of the last tour where he was subsequently dropped after a poor string of scores.
Virat Kohli recorded his first-ever double century at this ground. He will be keen to continue his good run and win his second series here as a captain.
Rohit Sharma made a mark in the Australian series with a 63-run knock at the MCG before he took off to attend the birth of his daughter, Samaira. With a sensational World Cup where he scored five hundreds, Rohit will be looking to replicate his form into red-ball cricket.
It’s been a while since Ajinkya Rahane did something extraordinary with his last Test century over two years ago. The Indian vice-captain needs a big knock to re-establish himself as one of the mainstays in this solid-looking batting line-up.
Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha is coming back after a long gap, so it’s uncertain if he will be considered above Rishabh Pant who has done a fine job behind the stumps, but more importantly scored two overseas centuries in England and Australia.
Ravichandran Ashwin was quite impressive in the previous West Indies tour and was named as the Man of the Series. The spinner was the leading wicket-taker with 17 wickets and went on to score 235 runs as well. India will have two choices in Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav to fill in for the second spinner’s role. Kuldeep Yadav bagged three wickets in the practice game against West Indies ‘A; while Ravindra Jadeja went wicketless, conceding runs at 3.41.
India’s premier fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah will be returning to action after the World Cup. It will also be his first tour to the Carribean isles and he will be raring to bowl on the hard surfaces there.
Mohammad Shami was India’s joint-highest wicket-taker last season along with Bumrah which also earned him a recall to the ODI setup. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav will be making their return to international cricket after the Australian tour. All in all, Virat Kohli and Co. will have a healthy headache to pick their pace bowling attack for the first Test.
While India registered a historic series win Down Under, West Indies defeated England at home and have transformed themselves into a wonderful Test side.
As for the Caribbean side, Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell will be the opening pair with Shai Hope to follow. Their top order hasn’t been in the best of forms and the home side will expect them to fire against a strong Indian bowling attack.
Shimron Hetmyer has done decently in the Test format so far. As witnessed in the home series against England, West Indies have a strong lower order with the likes of Jason Holder, Shane Dowrich and Roston Chase. All of them registered centuries in the series.
The hosts boast of a formidable pace attack with Kemar Roach leading the pack alongside Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Keemo Paul. West Indies will be missing the services of right arm pacer Alzarri Joseph who is still recovering from an elbow surgery suffered earlier during IPL.
Rahkeem Cornwall who has garnered quite a reputation in domestic cricket with 260 wickets from just 55 first-class games is going to be someone to watch out for.
Jasprit Bumrah vs Kraigg Brathwaite
Kraigg Brathwaite will be welcomed to the crease by Jasprit Bumrah who will take charge of the new red cherry. Regarded as one of the best batsmen for the hosts over the last few years, Brathwaite will be looking to tackle the biggest threat for his team. West Indies will be pinning their hopes on Brathwaite to wear out Bumrah but we all know what the right-arm pacer is capable of.
Bumrah clocked speeds in excess of 150 in Australia and will be a real threat with both - new and the old ball in the West Indies.
Virat Kohli vs Kemar Roach
The battle of the best. Kohli was struck at his thumb by a bouncer from Roach in the third ODI. With the red ball, he can create extra bounce as skipper Virat looks to dominate with the bat. It will be quite interesting to see who emerges better between the both. Kohli recently became the only player to garner 20,000 International runs in a single decade and he’s still got over four months to score more. If West Indies are to challenge the number one Test side, Kemar Roach will have to take care of this batting machine.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK) Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
West Indies: Jason Holder (C), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich(WK), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.