Team India after winning their seventh Asia Cup title, will be seen in whites again when they square off against the West Indies in the first of the two test matches at Rajkot on Thursday.
The last time the two teams faced each other in the longest format of the game was back in the year 2016 at Port of Spain, where a farcical test match with only 22 overs of play possible and 4 days abandoned, ended in a draw.
The Indian selectors have decided to wield the axe- they dropped opener Murali Vijay midway through the England test series, and have now done away with his partner Shikhar Dhawan, with the left hander paying the price for his poor form in the 4-1 loss in England.
Young U-19 talent Prithvi Shaw was called into the squad midway through the England series at Vijay’s expense. Although Shaw didn’t feature, he would’ve got some valuable experience in the Indian setup. The selectors have opted to blood him at home against the Windies- as good a debut as Shaw could probably have asked. He’s clearly one earmarked for the future, and the Windies, with the greatest of respect to Stuart Law’s side, are not really expected to trouble the hosts in India.
Shaw was in competition with Mayank Agarwal for the opening spot, but the selectors have shown their hand before the test itself, saying that the Mumbai starlet will be partnering KL Rahul at the top of the order. It is perhaps a tad harsh on Agarwal, who has been in fine form domestically and scored 90 against the Windies for Board President’s XI in their warmup game, but fans will be excited to see what the young Shaw can do.
Regular skipper Virat Kohli will be back after being rested for the Asia Cup. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara would be looking to get among the runs before the tour to Australia.
While the selectors’ decision to blood Shaw has been hailed, their other decision- to drop Karun Nair, hasn’t been universally received well. Test triple centurion Nair was among the reserves for all five tests in England, but Hanuma Vihari leapfrogged him into the XI for the final test despite not being in the original squad, and now the Karnataka star has found himself out of the team despite doing nothing wrong.
India have opted to stick with 20 year old dashing wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant, who scored a superb century at the Oval against England.
The spin twins comprising of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja will be leading the attack, while it’s likely to be a toss up between Kuldeep Yadav and Shardul Thakur for the fifth bowler’s slot, with Shami and Umesh Yadav almost certain to play.
Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been rested, while Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya are injured.
The injuries have resulted in a maiden call up to the test squad for Mohd Siraj, the Sunrisers bowler who impressed one and all in the IPL
The West Indies will be without key pacers Kemar Roach (family bereavement) and Alzarri Joseph for this series. In their absence, captain Jason Holder will be hoping that the likes of Keemo Paul and Sherman Lewis will step up to the occasion.
The likes of KC Braithwaite and Kieran Powell will be looking to provide a solid platform at the top for the likes of Shai Hope, Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich to capitalise.
The visitors also have spin options, with the likes of Devendra Bishoo, Jomel Warrican and Roston Chase all handy on turning wickets.
India v West Indies kicks off at Rajkot on Thursday (4th October)