Antigua, July 20 (IANS) A confident India under new coach Anil Kumble will be aiming to claim their third successive Test series when they take on an inexperienced West Indies side in the first game of the four-match Test rubber at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Thursday.
India had won both their previous series in the Caribbean with a 1-0 margin (2006 and 2011) and the upcoming four Tests will give the Virat Kohli-led young side a brilliant opportunity to better that record.
Meanwhile, the hosts haven’t won a Test series against anyone other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, home or away, since August 2012 while India can bank on their 2-1 away win against Sri Lanka and 3-0 thrashing of South Africa at home late last year.
Going into the first Test, the Indians had a decent outing in both the warm-up games against the West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI side, with both the batsmen and bowlers spending ample time in the middle.
But it won’t be a cakewalk for the visitors as the track used for the practice games at St. Kitts was on the slower side but with some bounce, which helped the spinners from either side while the pacers had to be satisfied with the limited movement available.
From the time, Kohli took over the mantle of the Test team, India have mostly opted for a five-bowler strategy, a trend which is very likely to be continued in the first Test.
With Lokesh Rahul scoring a half century in each of the two games, the opening slot will be an interesting contest between him and southpaw Shikhar Dhawan, who also fired a half ton while Murali Vijay is almost a certainty.
The middle order comprises of a more settled unit with Cheteshwar Pujara at one down, Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane at No. 4 and 5 with stumper Wriddhiman Saha at No.6. Rohit Sharma’s place in the playing XI depends on whether India plans to play four or five bowlers.
The pace bowling department will be spearheaded by the seasoned Ishant Sharma and is likely to include Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Mohammed Shami, who returned to competitive cricket recently may warm the bench for this fixture along with rookie Shardul Thakur.
With the tracks assisting the slower bowlers, leg-spinner Amit Mishra and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin look a possible combination, as the former had taken a four-wicket haul in one of the practice games while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s inclusion will also bolster the lower-order batting.
Meanwhile, the hosts will bank on their most experienced campaigner Marlon Samuels to boost the middle order as the rest of the batting line-up lacks enough experience barring Darren Bravo.
Vice captain Kraigg Brathwaite along with Rajendra Chandrika are most likely to open the batting followed by Bravo, Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood and Carlos Brathwaite.
Having dropped senior keeper-batsman Dinesh Ramdin, who played 74 Tests, rookie Shane Dowrich will don the big gloves.
The major headache for the hosts will be the pace bowling department after losing Jerome Taylor to Test retirement, and ignoring Kemar Roach. In their absence, skipper Jason Holder will lead the bowlers along with Carlos Brathwaite, Shannon Gabriel and Miguel Cummins while leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo is the lone specialist spinner in the team.