The Indian cricket team is set to take on West Indies for the first Test match from Thursday onwards.
This marks the start of the ICC World Test Championship for both the sides.
There are 120 points up for grabs and that’s crucial in expecting a solid approach from both sides in the Test to be held at Antigua.
India has to be spot on with their approach and get things right.
From team combinations, balance, and choices, the Indian management has worked up to its sleeves.
It’s all about character and the right approach.
Skipper Virat Kohli now has the chance to become the first Indian captain to clinch two-Test series wins in West Indies but it will be easier said than done.
Windies will be a tough nut to crack for Team India.
Kohli is also one win away from equalling former captain MS Dhoni’s record of most wins as Indian Test skipper.
The 30-year-old currently has 26 wins from 46 matches while Dhoni had 27 wins in 60. A 2-0 series win will see Kohli become India’s most successful captain in the longest format.
India has been enjoying a solid run of form in Tests since a while now. This will give them a lot of confidence. Talking about the first Test, India needs to make certain key decisions and address the areas well. Here we analyze the same.
Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit?
The management will be fretting on possible team combinations for the first Test.
One major difficult choice is between senior pros Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane.
With India likely to go in with a five-man bowling attack, there is that possibility of keeping one batsman out.
Now, this is because both spin options in the form of Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin are strong Test all-rounders.
A safety-first four-bowler strategy will allow both the Test and ODI vice-captains to figure in the scheme of things.
Otherwise, Otherwise, one is set to miss out.
Going with form in Tests, Rahane has had a wretched form in red-ball cricket.
He was also dismissed for 1 in the practice match.
Rohit gives the side more versatility and he looked in solid touch in the warm-up match.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are the two pillars at No. 3 and 4 respectively, but the issue starts after that.
Rahane’s county stint with Hampshire didn’t go well and it never managed to bolster his confidence.
So if Rohit gets the nod, then it will be crucial for him to grab the chance and cement his place. India plays South Africa in October and Rohit will present a strong case.
Will the preferred 6-5 strategy work?
Given India’s success against the Windies and the conditions not being like one of those SENA countries, Team India will not need to pin their hopes on an extra batsman.
Given that both Jadeja and Ashwin are strong customers, it gives Virat the liberty to attack with the ball.
In this case, there is workload shared and both are wicket-taking options.
India can also use three pacers at will and get the combinations right.
With Hardik Pandya absent, getting Jadeja in his place seems like a better deal rather than an extra batsman down the order.
Also going by Kohli’s preference, the 6-5 strategy suits India well.
With five strong bowling options, India can take a similar road to that of England and have the comfort factor riding.
What about Saha?
India is likely to play Rishabh Pant as the wicket-keeper batsman at number six.
He is the future of the side and has made a strong impact in Test cricket.
But what about veteran wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha?
Wriddhiman is not only a better keeper but is also the in-form batsman.
This is his final chance to bow out with a bang.
Saha still has some cricket left in him and playing him could make more sense.
He can then bow out of the side perhaps after the South Africa series with his head held high.
He had lost his place in the side due to injury and has worked hard to earn a recall.
Why waste someone’s time by limiting him to the bench after calling him back?
Saha is about to be 35 and this is the time to get the most out of him before an impending farewell. Pant can learn from the veteran and take his time.
Test Championship the major focus
Team India will want to maintain its unbeaten record on the current tour.
India swept the 3-match T20I series and won the 3-match ODI series 2-0.
The number one side in Tests hasn’t lost a series against West Indies since 2002.
Under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, India has won 23 and lost 8 out of the 38 Tests they have played since 2016.
This is the best among all other Test-playing nations.
Now with the ICC Test Championship on offer, India knows that they have a strong chance of winning the competition in 2021.
So in order to do that, the hard work starts now. In this 2019-21 cycle, India has to play smart cricket and boss the show.
The success in red-ball cricket has seen Kohli leading the side to 8 wins of the 10 series they have played in the last three years. This is also the best series-win percentage among all other Test-playing nations. Their only two series losses came last year in South Africa and England.
This is an added vision for the side and head coach Ravi Shastri, who was recently retained as the coach.
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