India’s only warm-up game in the West Indies ahead of the two-Test series that will be a part of the ICC World Test Championships might have ended in a draw, but the three-day match presented India with a few talking points ahead of the first Test match at North Sound.
India were dominant in the T20I and ODI series but West Indies are a strong Test side and will pose a challenge in the longest format of the game.
Here are the key takeaways from that match and what it could mean for India’s playing XI for the first Test match.
Options Aplenty for The Middle Order
With India’s top four looking all but set – Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul are likely to open the batting with Cheteshwar Pujara at three and Virat Kohli at four – the main question now remains over who will fill the remaining two slots.
One of Wriddhiman Saha or Rishabh Pant will fill in as the wicketkeeper batsman with Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari set to compete for the remaining slot. It’s a good headache for Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri to have.
As mentioned before, one of Pant or Saha will get the nod as the wicketkeeper batsman in the playing XI and both players come with a set of pros and cons. Pant has fared well early in his Test career but his form has been up and down in recent times.
Saha is a safer alternative both behind the stumps and with the bat, but the Bengal veteran returned from a long injury lay-off only this year and is making his return to international cricket in this series. Both are in contention for the spot but it will be interesting to see who plays at North Sound.
Pace Battery Remains Strong
Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami are almost certain to feature on the team-sheet for the first Test but perhaps the biggest takeaway from the warm-up game is that India’s options in the pace department are aplenty.
Besides these three, Navdeep Saini also bowled a few overs – the Delhi speedster has been kept back largely as a nets bowler but could well be in the reckoning for a call-up eventually. Umesh Yadav also performed well in the warm-up match, taking three wickets at an economy rate of 1.9.
Three Choices for Lone Spinner’s Spot
With seam-friendly pitches expected in the Caribbean, India are likely to opt for only the lone spinner in the playing XI and are once again spoiled for choice. Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav are the ones competing for that one spot.
Kuldeep has previously been declared India’s number one Test spinner by Shastri and also picked 3 wickets in the warm-up game, but Ashwin remains a match-winner in Tests and Jadeja would bring additional value with the bat as well. Who gets the nod will be decided by the finest of margins.