The Indian cricket team returns to red-ball cricket with a three-day warm-game against West Indies Cricket Board XI beginning in Antigua on Saturday. The visitors will be aiming to get some quality practice ahead of the two-Test series.
With skipper Virat Kohli sustaining a right thumb injury during the third One-Day International, the team management could decide to exercise precaution and rest their best player before the World Test championship opener.
Kohli has been in phenomenal form and has led India from the front in the limited-overs series. After scoring 106 runs in the three T20 Internationals, he scored 234 runs, including back-to-back centuries, in the ODIs.
After defeating West Indies 3-0 in the T20I series, India continued their winning spree and bagged the three-match ODI rubber 2-0. A win in the Test series, starting on August 22, will be the first time that India would have won across all formats on Caribbean soil.
Ajinkya Rahane, India’s vice-captain in Tests, didn’t exactly set the English County on fire, scoring only 307 runs in seven games with a hundred and a fifty and a sub-par average of 23.61. The 31-year-old hasn’t been at his best over the past couple of years and this tour will be crucial for him.
Cheteshwar Pujara, one of India’s batting mainstays in the longest format, will be playing a competitive red ball game after a good six months, having last appeared in the Ranji Trophy final for Saurashtra.
Jasprit Bumrah, who had a strenuous six months till the World Cup, has now freshened up and the practice game would be more about hitting the straps and getting some rhythm back after a month-long rest.
The practice game will give a chance for the players who are already here in the West Indies to shift from limited overs to the five-day format and from white-ball to red-ball cricket.
On the batting front, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant will be looking for runs after a below-par limited overs leg. Pant for one would be more keen on a hit as his understudy Wriddhiman Saha has already scored two half-centuries in the A games and is no doubt considered a far better keeper.
Mayank Agarwal is likely to open in the Tests but he’ll have competition from Hanuma Vihari (originally a middle-order batsman) and KL Rahul, who has not been at his best in this format of late.
Pacers Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma too would look to impress the team management with a fine show in the practice game ahead of the two Tests. India’s spin department is expected be led by the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
The World Test Championship is a league which is being contested by nine of the 12 full members countries of the International Cricket Council. It is a two-year cycle, the first of which started on August 1 with the opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
The group phase officially began on July 16 and will run until March 31, 2021, after which the top two teams will contest a final. And being the No 1 side in Test cricket at present, India would definitely start as one of the favourites to win the Championships.
Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Rishabh Pant, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, Umesh Yadav.
[With inputs from PTI]