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After a grueling test series in England which saw India fight tooth and nail in every session of every single day, the hosts now face a decidedly easier task against the West Indies. India has taken this opportunity to blood some youngsters into the team as it builds towards the tour to Australia later this year. The West Indies have been pretty frequent visitors to India over the last few years and have not even come close to competing on these turning surfaces. The side that makes the trip this time will be more experienced and has tasted more success over the last few months.
Can India find some youngsters to fill the gaps in its test side that were exposed in England? Can the West Indies compete and push India to the brink, maybe even sneak in a victory?
Playing India at home is one of the most difficult tasks for any team, especially in recent years. The team has become ruthless about winning every single match and does not shy away from having home conditions suit its strength. In fact, some people may argue, that the ‘home advantage’ is often pressed to a degree more than even the home fans would like to see.
There is a lot to observe for India in this test series. They have dropped Shikhar Dhawan from the test side and it looks highly unlikely that he will be able to make the tour to Australia. India is also going to be without Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, its first choice pace attack, so overall it’s a very new side that is going to take on the West Indies.
Virat Kohli is going to be back playing international cricket after a well-deserved rest where he missed the Asia Cup.
India’s potential batting lineup is looking quite different from just a few test matches back. Lokesh Rahul and Prithvi Shaw look set to open the batting. Rahul scored a brilliant century in his last match and would want to secure his place in the side with some home runs to back that up.
Shaw is one of the highly-rated prodigious talents in Indian cricket and he will be watched closely around the world. He has made plenty of centuries in first-class cricket, was pretty good in the IPL, and has toured extensively with the A team. We think he is the finished product and back him to get one or two centuries in this test series.
Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane should make up the middle order. Runs from Pujara and Kohli, especially in Indian conditions are pretty predictable. Pujara would be our pick for the top run-scorer in the series because his hunger for runs in subcontinental conditions is truly unmatched.
Rahane would be a bit under pressure because of his lack of runs abroad and his poor record in India. He is the one batsman that needs runs the most in this series.
It will be interesting to see what India does after this. It is easy to bat Pant at 6 and play five bowlers in India. Ashwin and Jadeja can both bat pretty well in these conditions and allow India the luxury of doing that.
We would, however, like to see Vihari at 6 looking towards the long term, and then play Pant at 7 followed by the four bowlers.
Aswin, Jadeja, Shami, and Umesh Yadav would the automatic first four bowlers picked. Perhaps Mohammad Siraj could be a given a chance with a view of developing him further as a bowler.
Lokesh Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, V Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, RR Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
Test cricket and the West Indies just do not seem to go together anymore. None of the big-name West Indian cricketers even play the format anymore. None of the players that are household names around the world are going to be making this trip to India.
The West Indian test team, in contrast with its T20 and even ODI side, is a dull and plodding unit that lacks in flair. That does not mean they cannot compete, though, it just means that they don’t conform to the traditional view of how West Indian cricket was perceived in their heyday.
One thing that is in favor of the West Indians is that they are used to facing a lot of spin back home thanks to the slow surfaces the Caribbean offers nowadays. The quality of spin is not going to be close what they face on this trip but its spin none the less.
The team also suffered a setback as Stuart Law resigned as Coach just before the tour was about to begin. Law had worked hard with the West Indies team but was often left frustrated at the pace with which things seem to move in the islands.
For this tour, the West Indies are going to be led by Jason Holder, their longtime test captain and a greatly improved player in our opinion. Holder has worked hard to make himself a genuine all-rounder and can reliably be counted on to score runs down the order. His bowling has stayed where it was, though, which is not saying much.
The batting unit for the West Indies will be made up of Kraigg Braithwaite and Kieron Powell at the top of the order. Both these batsmen got runs in the warm-up and have been opening the batting for the West Indies for quite some time now.
Powell is going to be tested severely against the spin while Braithwaite seems to have a better technique to counter the kind of bowling he is likely to face.
Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, and Roston Chase make up the middle order followed by Shane Dowrich and Sunil Ambris.
There is a lot of talent in this batting lineup. We want to see Hope and Hetmyer play their natural game and take the attack to the Indian attack. They will likely get some good batting conditions and to make the most of them will be up to them.
Hetmyer is coming off a brilliant CPL where he displayed signs of finally becoming the player everyone wants him to. Tempering his game a bit to suite test cricket is going to be important but he should play his natural game.
It will be interesting to see if Sunil Ambris can make the final playing eleven because he looked very good in the warm-up. Shane Dowrich and Jason Holder have also been important pillars for the West Indian batting in the recent past.
The real challenge for the West Indies is going to be its bowling. Devendra Bishoo is going to be the lead spinner, with Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel providing the pace. The other bowlers to choose from are quite inexperienced and could find the going tough in India.
The West Indian bowlers will have to be very patient against a strong Indian batting and try to capitalize on any opportunities that crop up.
Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, SW Ambris, Shane Dowrich, Keemo Paul, Devendra Bishoo, Sherman Lewis, Shannon Gabriel.
The team winning the toss is almost certainly going to bat first
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It is going to be hot and clear in Rajkot for the duration of the test match. The players will have to push themselves to be able to perform in some very challenging conditions for both the bowlers and batsmen.
The pitch in Rajkot should be flat to begin with and then start to take spin from the third day onward. Sometimes the pitch can veer too far in favor of the batsmen but we don’t think that will happen this time around.
India holds all the aces in this match even though it is playing with a relatively new batting lineup. They have world class spinners to keep the West Indies down and it is very difficult to see the Indian not winning in these conditions.
Back India to win.