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Posted at: Aug 22, 2019, 7:21 AM; last updated: Aug 22, 2019, 7:21 AM (IST)

Beginning of a new chapter

India’s World Championship journey begins with first Test against Windies on tricky track

North Sound (Antigua), Aug 21 

A perfect combination and a winning start will be foremost on skipper Virat Kohli’s mind when India take on West Indies in their World Test Championship opener starting here tomorrow.

A win in the opening Test will be the 27th for Kohli as skipper and will put him on even keel with his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni. A century in the game (19th as captain) will place him on par with Ricky Ponting.

On paper, India — with a batting line-up that has Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant in the ranks — should be termed clear favourites, but this West Indies team, led by Jason Holder, is no pushover. 

England found that out the hard way at the start of the year when they lost a Test series 1-2 on some of the liveliest pitches on the Caribbean islands in recent times. One such pacer-friendly wicket was at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua where Kohli and his men will be facing the Windies first up. The last Test played here saw England scoring 187 and 132 but that was a different time of the year. Nevertheless, Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri will be wary of the challenge that can be posed by the new-ball pair of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel along with Jason Holder bowling his steady seam-up spells.

If there is pace and bounce, Kohli is likely to go with four specialist bowlers in which Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav will be fighting for the lone spinner’s slot.

The three pacers, in all likelihood, will be Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.

Batting combination

However, it is the batting combination that will be the skipper’s primary worry and if he can get it right, that will be considered as a tactical victory. In an ideal situation, if Hardik Pandya was available, Kohli would have been tempted to drop either Rohit Sharma or Ajinkya Rahane. But given the recent record of West Indies in Tests, he might go in with an extra batsman, which means both will feature in the playing XI.

If a green-top is provided and Kohli still goes with five bowlers, which includes Ravindra Jadeja as an all-rounder, it could well be a toss-up between the two Mumbaikars. 

The other issue will be at the top of the order as to who will open with Mayank Agarwal. The common logic says KL Rahul, who is a specialist opener. But Hanuma Vihari was sent to do the fire-fighting in Australia and it would be unfair to not give him another opportunity against a relatively easier pace attack.

The West Indies team in the Test format has been an understated one with players who have more talent than what the numbers currently show. — PTI

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