India will be taking on West Indies for four match series starting on Thursday at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua. The visitors are tipped to defeat lowly ranked WI and continue their 14-year unbeaten run against the hosts.
Men in blue, who are currently at No.2 in ICC Test rankings, will lose rating points if they cannot secure a 3-0 margin in the series. Australia is currently ranked No.1 in the rankings. The gap between Australia and India will increase if India lose the series.
West Indies, who were the champions in the recently concluded WT20 with Men’s under-19 team winning the under-19 World Cup and Women’ s team were also victorious in India during WT20. WI also reached the finals of tri nation series before losing to Australia in the final. Despite that, the team continues to struggle in the longer format and are ranked at No.8.
They lost 2-0 in both their last two series in Sri Lanka and Australia at the end of 2015.WI have shown sparks of brilliance but consistency has been a big worry. Top players have been in conflict with board over various issues and that has plagued cricket in general. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are the only teams which are below them.
Selectors have taken the bold step of dropping experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin for Shane Dowrich, who made his Test debut as a specialist batsman against Australia in Dominica a year ago.
WI have stuck with Marlon Samuels, who despite being heavy run getter in limited overs format has struggled in Test cricket and hasn’t performed to his potential. Kraigg Brathwaite will be the glue that holds the top order together and provide stability.
The biggest concern for the West Indies will be the bowling department which has leaked runs and bowled erratically in the recent past. Jerome Taylor announcing his retirement and Kemar Roach not selected after his lacklustre performance in Australia. Lot will depend on injury prone wrist spinner, Devendra Bishoo and company.
Jason Holder will be sharing new ball with Shanon Gabriel or Carlos Brathwaite with Miguel Cummins waiting in the wings.
Virat Kohli has few questions to answer as well. They have not yet decided on bowling combination or to persist with Rohit Sharma. The pitch is expected to be on the slower side and will assist spinners as the game progresses.
India can go in with the spin trio of Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and select either Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mohammad Shami partnering Ishant Sharma, who will spearhead the attack. Only Shardul Thakur is the uncapped player in the side.
WI pitches have become slower and slower over the years. Except Sabina Park, Jamaica the pitches will be on the slower side. The cricket will be attritional and players will have to grind and work hard for their wickets and runs.
The series is expected to be a close contest and whoever wins the key moments will come out on top at the end of four gruelling matches.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd. Shami, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma
West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Leon Johnson, Shane Dowrich (wk), Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins