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India vs West Indies: Kohli's Side Begin World Test Championship with Windies Examination

It's time for new beginnings for India and West Indies as they get started with their ICC World Test Championship campaigns with the first of two Tests at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua beginning Thursday (August 22).

Cricketnext Staff |August 22, 2019, 10:53 AM IST
Indian skipper Virat Kohli. (Pic: AFP)

It's time for new beginnings for India and West Indies as they get started with their ICC World Test Championship campaigns with the first of two Tests at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua beginning Thursday (August 22).

It's been a while since both sides played in whites; India's last Test series was in January, while West Indies' was a month later. Since then, both sides have switched focus to shorter formats, with the Indian Premier League and World Cup taking bulk of the time.

The Test championship is a fresh start, but in many ways, the season ahead is also about continuation for both India and West Indies. The rankings say everything about India's Test form - they're No. 1, and are coming off a historic series win in Australia. West Indies are No. 8, but they've done plenty to be hopeful of a better future. Their most recent Test series was a 2-1 win over England at home. They've now got a core group and a settled unit to work with and take the next step: consistency.

India have got a solid core group too, but have a few selection calls to make. The main one is around the combination, in Hardik Pandya's absence - do they play five bowlers or four? That will decide whether they bring Rohit Sharma into the side. It's hard to guess Kohli's playing XIs, but it's likely India will play five bowlers - two spinners and three pacers.

India will also have to decide between Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha for the wicketkeeper's slot. Saha is the experienced one and was the first-choice, before an injury gave Pant a long run. Pant grabbed it with both hands, scoring centuries in England and Australia. It's highly likely that India will stick with the youngster.

Kohli conceded that India have to be more consistent with the bat. It's an area that cost them victories in South Africa and England. The issues begin with the top, where KL Rahul needs to find consistency. He even lost his place for a Test in Australia, but the absence of Prithvi Shaw gives him a chance now. Mayank Agarwal made a dream start to his Test career down under, and he'll look to set himself for a long run.

The next three are India's best bet - Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. The last of the three, also India's vice-captain, is also in need of consistent runs. He was even left out for Rohit in South Africa last year, but Kohli backed Rahane strongly before the tour. It's time for Rahane to score big and answer questions.

The bowling is as settled and strong as it can get. Jasprit Bumrah returns after a well deserved break to partner Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. They've got Umesh Yadav too, in case he's needed. It'll be interesting to see how R Ashwin goes; he showed signs of form in England and Australia but had frequent fitness issues, which hurt India's plans. He's out of favour for the other two formats, and it's up to him to step up in the form of the game where he's got plenty of records.

West Indies resisted the temptation to give Chris Gayle a go in the series, although the left-hander openly said he'd be available. It shows West Indies are looking ahead, and have a stable base.

West Indies' biggest strength is their pace attack, and they'll be hoping for help from the pitches. Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Jason Holder had England in tatters earlier this year. Joseph is out with an injury for this series, but West Indies still have plenty of firepower. They have also got the off-spin of Roston Chase, and uncapped Rahkeem Cornwall.

It's the batting that has to step up. They've got the ability in Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Chase and Shimron Hetmyer. They've got to step up massively to challenge this Indian attack.

The biggest name in the side, the glue holding them all together, is the captain himself. Holder is ranked No. 1 in the all-rounder's list for a reason; his fortunes may well decide how much West Indies challenge India this series.

The hosts have already lost the T20Is and ODIs in this tour. They last beat India in a Test in 2002. It will take a big effort to change that.

Squads: West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.

India: Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane (VC), Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, C Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (WK) Wriddhiman Saha (WK), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav

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2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 4366 104
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2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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2 England 4253 266
3 India 8411 263
4 Australia 5471 261
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