For the first Test against West Indies that starts on Wednesday, India will see a new opening combination. India captain Rohit Sharma on Tuesday announced that talented youngster Shubman Gill will bat at No. 3 slot. In the past, Shubman has opened for India and has achieved much success in his 16-Test career so far. Sharma also announced that India will see a left-right opening combination. Also, two spinners will be in the XI.
“Looking at the wicket (in Dominica), I believe we will play with two spinners and three seamers. As far as batting positions go, Shubman Gill will play at No. 3 spot. He wants to play at No. 3 and that’s what he told coach Rahul Dravid. That he has played at No. 3 and 4 his entire career,” Rohit Sharma said in the press conference.
He also said that they are pleased to have a left-right opening combination after a long time. “It will be exciting time for Indian cricket. We have found the player and hopefully he does well in the long run. We were desperate to have a left-handed opener for a long time,” Sharma said. Yashasvi Jaiswal is most likely to be that left-handed opener for India.
The Indian team is set to hit the transition button with much-anticipated debut of Yashasvi Jaiswal in the two-Test series against a wounded West Indies, which is searching for a road to redemption.
While the hosts, after their shock elimination from the ODI World Cup Qualifiers would be eager to prove that they are still relevant in world cricket, the Indian team too is beset by certain challenges.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s much-debated exit has created a slot in the Indian top-order and the immensely talented Mumbai left-hander will hope that he lives up to his ‘name’ and promise that he has shown at the first-class level before being thrown at the deep end of the pool.
Against a bowling attack comprising of seasoned Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alazarri Joseph and Jason Holder, it will be a baptism by fire for young Jaiswal before he faces South Africa in Rainbow nation at the end of the year.
India’s new World Test Championship cycle will be a way tougher assignment compared to the previous two editions, when a set team reached back-to-back finals riding on a top-notch pace bowling unit.
But in the absence of an injured Jasprit Bumrah, who might find it difficult to play Test matches on a regular basis and the skilful Mohammed Shami, rested for this series, the Indian attack would surely lack the sting that made the current team a world beater.
Of the two others, who were part of the famed quartet, Ishant Sharma will be making his commentary debut in this series while Umesh Yadav at 36, might find it difficult to get a recall after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Hence the five-man attack, led by 19-Test old Mohammed Siraj and supported by Shardul Thakur with nine long-form games in his kitty, does look really thin on experience in comparison to the West Indies pace attack.
It will again boil down to how West Indies measure up against the guile and artistry of Ravichandran Ashwin (474 wickets) and Ravindra Jadeja (268), who have close to 750 Test scalps between them.
The choice of four bowlers is automatic but picking one among Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat and Navdeep Saini might not be a easy proposition.
Similarly, with two spinners in operation Kona Bharath is a better bet behind the stumps than Ishan Kishan but the former is on borrowed time due to his performance in front of the wicket. Kishan’s flair and being a left-hander can’t be ignored for long till Rishabh Pant gets his place back in the side.
The Windsor Park hasn’t hosted a Test match in the last six years but this is one format where the assortment Caribbean nations have been at their best in recent years.
It will be foolhardy on India’s part to think that West Indies’ World Cup qualifier show will impact their Test match performance and that could be a bit of a misnomer.
In their pace attack, the two primary bowlers are Roach (261 wickets), a veteran of nearly 15 years and Gabriel (164 wickets), who has been a potent new ball enforcer. Gabriel doesn’t play white ball cricket.
On the Caribbean tracks, both are more than a handful and the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Indian batting order – skipper Rohit Sharma, the peerless Virat Kohli and comeback-man Ajinkya Rahane, will have more than a job at hand.
All three have to face different kind of challenges.
For Rohit, it is still a sketchy road and his future will only be clear after the 50- over World Cup. He has to win this two-match series first up and also make significant contribution with the bat in order to remain relevant in the longer format post World Cup.
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