At long last, Indian test cricket is back. It has taken more than seven months, but we get an overseas tour – a rare one – for our patience. Now, West Indies may not be the strongest test team around, but they’ve just come off a season in which their limited over teams have performed admirably – T20 World Champions for the second time, and reaching the final of a tri-series that involved Australia and South Africa. Surely, the confidence must have poured into the longer format, and India hasn’t been known to take to West Indian conditions as well as other teams.
This will be the first test series India will be playing in the Caribbean since 2011 – the infamous post-World Cup tour, where a Dhoni-led India labored to a 1-0 victory in a 3-test series, signaling the beginning of the end for the Golden Generation.
This time, India – led by Virat Kohli and coached by Anil Kumble – will play four test matches at Antigua, Jamaica, Gros Islet and Trinidad. Much has changed since 2011, and Kohli, along with Murali Vijay, Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma, are the only remnants of that test squad five years ago.
Here are some facts and figures about the two teams before they go head-to-head till the end of August:
– First test series to be played between the two since Sachin Tendulkar’s final test (at Wankhede, 2013, November), a series which India won 2-0
– West Indies has not beaten India in a test match since May, 2002 (Sabina Park). Since then, India has won 8 tests and drawn 7, winning all 5 series played between the two.
– So far, 90 tests have been played between the two – 45 in India, 45 in West Indies. India has won only 16 totally, 11 of them at home.
– India took 23 years to win their first test against the mighty West Indies, back in 1971 at the Port-of-Spain, thanks to a Sunil Gavaskar special.
– Rohit Sharma debuted in the 2013 series, ending up with two centuries and a Man of The Series award. He is yet to score a test century since.
– Virat Kohli scored only 76 runs in three tests in the 2011 series.
– Fidel Edwards was the only test centurion in 2011 along with Rahul Dravid and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
– This is bowler Shardul Thakur’s debut international test series.
Virat Kohli, as usual, has a problem of plenty at hand in terms of batsman. He will have to choose between KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan as his opener to partner the more stable Murali Vijay. Rahul has been in terrific form, especially in the T20 season and in the Zimbabwe series, where he scored an ODI century on debut. Dhawan has been inconsistent, but offers the right-left variety at the top. India has no other left-hander in their top order. If India want an extra bowling option, which they may need in the slow and low conditions here, they will have to go for Stuart Binny (though he isn’t much of a bowler) instead of Rohit Sharma – who has struggled to cement his test spot. It will always be a toss-up between Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra for the second spinner’s spot, as will it be between the returning Shami and Bhuvi for the second seamer’s spot. Otherwise, Kohli could well go in for Umesh Yadav if they play with Ashwin as the sole spinner. Depends on the pitch.
Likely team for first test: Vijay, Rahul, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Rohit/Binny, Saha, Jadeja, Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami
Best batsmen: Vijay, Rahane
Bowlers to watch out for: Ishant Sharma, R. Ashwin
Expect Kohli to struggle a bit on these pitches. Murali Vijay will be reliable as ever, but India need a bowling star. In the long run, perhaps they should train KL Rahul as a wicketkeeper, so that they can always play with an extra all-rounder in the middle. Wriddiman Saha hasn’t been inspiring much confidence, but his solid keeping will be important on this tour. MS Dhoni, like it or not, has left a gaping hole in the middle order as a player.