Tarouba (Port of Spain): A full-strength Indian team in all its might will be looking to overwhelm West Indies in its bid to record a second successive clean sweep in the three-match T20I series starting Friday.
With less than three months left for the T20 World Cup, skipper Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid will get around 16 games (5 vs WI, 5 in Asia Cup (if India play final), 3 vs Australia, 3 vs South Africa) to firm up their core team that will then play unchanged going into mega event.
The mere thought of a first eleven comprising Rohit, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik as the five specialists batters in the top six can have an intimidating as well as debilitating effect on the opposition.
And that too at a time when a player of Virat Kohli’s stature has been failing miserably in shortest format and doubts are being cast about his place in the playing XI.
The preceding England series has shown that India’s white ball players have that imposing alpha-male like presence out there in the middle even if their best player Kohli is on the wane.
Can Deepak Hooda challenge Kohli’s position?
Thus the five-match series against West Indies, technically being played in three different countries (Trinidad & Tobago, St Kitts & Nevis and USA) will also give us a clear picture whether Kohli’s days of invincibility are over or not.
Deepak Hooda, whatever little amount of T20Is that he has played, has shown that belongs to this level. He has a hundred opening the innings against Ireland and in the only T20 that he played against England, he looked the part before being forced to relinquish his place to Kohli.
With his tight off-breaks adding to his skill-set, at least three to four good matches in this series will certainly increase Rohit’s headache and also put Kohli under pressure when he returns for Asia Cup in the UAE.
Number three will be the only position that will be a bone of contention as far as India’s batting order is concerned going into the T20 World Cup.
The other factor will be regular vice-captain KL Rahul’s return to the squad and where does one fit this prolific IPL performer although his way of constructing a T20 innings could be debated.
Rohit-Pant pair could be way forward in T20I
In terms of sheer numbers, the Pant-Rohit opening pair didn’t set the stage on fire against England but statistics often do not provide the bigger picture.
The left-right combination has shown intent to dominate and with their kind of range could prove to be a nightmare for any opposition on a given day.
On tacky West Indies tracks where spinners could operate in Powerplay, the duo could be even doubly dangerous and as far as Australian wickets are concerned, their ability to effortlessly play horizontal bat shots would keep them in a good stead.
Will Ashwin get a look-in for T20 World Cup?
With Jadeja’s fitness being an issue and also his growing focus on being a batting all-rounder, Ravichandran Ashwin is still India’s best slow bowler in Powerplay overs with his variations that include the lethal carrom ball.
There is Kuldeep Yadav also in the squad and Ravi Bishnoi, who has been more of a glorified traveller since Chahal found his mojo.
Yuzvendra Chahal’s place is non-negotiable in first XI and Washington Sundar will be back in the set-up any day which effectively makes it last chance for Ashwin to stake his claim for a place in playing XI.
Choice of third specialist seamer/pacer to join Bumrah-Bhuvi
If they remain injury-free, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are sure-shot starters in the playing XI on October 23 when India meet arch-rivals Pakistan.
With Hardik Pandya also bowling full tilt, India would be looking to finalise their third specialist pacer and if Harshal Patel does well in this series, there will be lot of pressure on Deepak Chahar, who is likely to be back for Asia Cup.
West Indies look for improvements
Boasting a few T20 specialists and hard-hitters, the hosts are likely to go with the same squad featuring such as Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, and Rovman Powell that beat Bangladesh 2-0 in the three-match series back home earlier this month.
The likes of Myers and skipper Pooran are also in good form with the bat, and that could give West Indies the right amount of confidence to give India a tough fight.
India: Rohit Sharma (C), Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh
West Indies (Probable): Nicholas Pooran (C), Shamarh Brooks, Brandon King, Rovman Powell, Keacy Carty, Kyle Mayers, Jason Holder, Gudakesh Motie, Keemo Paul, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Jayden Seales
Match starts: 8 PM IST