India vs West Indies: Opening conundrum the big point of contention ahead of Test team selection
After a fighting display in England, Team India will be back to playing a two-Test series against West Indies on home soil from October 4. The national selectors will be meeting in the Capital on Wednesday to pick the squad for the two-game series. Considering West Indies’ current position in world cricket, ranked 8th in the ICC rankings, MSK Prasad and his men could well want to experiment a bit ahead of the next foreign challenge that awaits Virat Kohli and boys in Australia.
While skipper Kohli is expected to make a return, having got a well-deserved break after the England series, it would be interesting to see if domestic run-machine Mayank Agarwal finally gets a go-ahead after being ignored by the national selectors over the past year. Interestingly, he has been picked as opener in the Board President’s XI squad that will play a warm-up against the visiting West Indies team from September 29. Agarwal is expected to open the innings with the young Prithvi Shaw — drafted into the senior squad for the last two Test matches against England.
Sources in the know of developments told the Hindustan Times that while the selectors are toying with the idea of giving Mayank a go for the West Indies series, the matter needs to be discussed with the team management as well, keeping in mind the road ahead and the Australia tour in a couple of months.
If Mayank does get a look in, it will be interesting to see who will the selectors drop. KL Rahul looks like a certainty given his impressive outing in the last Test. Murali Vijay was dropped mid-way through the series in England and a comeback looks difficult for him as Prithvi Shaw remains untested and is expected to get a go in the series. The fight then is between Mayank and the experienced Shikhar Dhawan for the third opener’s spot. But given the way Dhawan has been backed by the team management, despite his mediocre run in the longest format, Mayank might still have to wait for his chance.
The five wise men — Prasad, Devang Gandhi, Sarandeep Singh, Jatin Paranjape and Gagan Khoda — will also need to re-look the third spinner’s slot if R Ashwin is yet to be a 100 per cent. A groin injury suffered during the third Test of the England series saw the spinner miss the fifth Test and it looks unlikely that the selectors will want to risk him at home against West Indies as the Australia series starts from December 6.
Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav — third spinner for the Test series in England — will pick themselves. It could well be a three-way race for the third spot between Yuzvendra Chahal, Jayant Yadav and darkhorse Shahbaz Nadeem. While Chahal has been in the reckoning for a while now, Jayant can also add his bit with the bat in the lower half of the innings. As for Nadeem, he has done enough in domestic cricket in the last few seasons to finally get rewarded with a national call-up. Nadeem broke the world-record for the best List A bowling figures as he picked 8 wickets for just 10 runs against Rajasthan on September 20 in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy.
It will also be interesting to see if Karun Nair still finds a place in the squad or whether the selectors decide to go ahead and pick in-form Hanuma Vihari. Picked ahead of Nair in the final Test in England, Vihari reposed the faith of the team management by not only scoring a fifty on debut, but also picked a couple of wickets.
Rishabh Pant is set to continue in his role behind the stumps after putting in an inspired show against England in testing conditions. The pace battery almost picks itself with Bhuvneshwar likely to make a comeback to join Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. The only exception could be with the selectors looking to give one or two of the senior boys a rest after the grueling five-match series against England.
The first Test against West Indies will be played in Rajkot from October 4 and the second Test will be played in Hyderabad from October 12.