India have picked an intimidating side for the tour of West Indies © AFP
India have picked an exciting side for the tour of West Indies © AFP

India announced the Test squad for the upcoming tour of West Indies in July-August 2016. The team did not have any major surprises, with the same core side that has played the last few Test series for India continuing to feature. Shardul Thakur earned his first major international call-up as reward for a couple of solid domestic seasons with recent Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai. The other interesting point to note was that Ajinkya Rahane was named vice-captain of the team. Rahane had previously captained India in the ODI series in Zimbabwe in 2015. READ: India announce squad for West Indies tour 2016; Ajinkya Rahane named vice-captain

Batsmen: India have picked three openers in Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, with the added option of Cheteshwar Pujara if needed. Pujara is likely to bat at No. 3 unless there are any extenuating circumstances, with Virat Kohli coming in at No. 4 followed by Ajinkya Rahane and possibly Wriddhiman Saha.

Kohli has shown that he is comfortable going in with five front-line batsmen and a wicketkeeper, which would mean that Rohit Sharma is likely to miss out on the starting XI to begin with. There is also the unlikely option that Kohli will use Rahul as the wicketkeeper to bolster the batting, given how well Rahul has kept wickets in IPL 2016. However this is an unlikely scenario.

All-rounders: India have opted for the pace-bowling all-rounder in Stuart Binny and the spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra as well. If India play five batsmen and a wicketkeeper, then three of the four all-rounders could feature, followed by a couple of pacers. However, a lot will depend on the pitch since West Indian surfaces are usually not very spin-friendly—barring the rare Port-of-Spain track—so it is more likely that only one of Ashwin, Mishra and Jadeja will feature in any given Test. Given the historical success Indian leg-spinners have had West Indies, it is not inconceivable that Mishra would feature alone.

Bowlers: India have selected as many as five fast bowlers for the tour in Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur. Ishant and Umesh have been India’s preferred new-ball pair for the last few Tests they have played, but with Shami fit and raring to go he could find a place as well. If the conditions are overcast and conductive to conventional swing, then Bhuvneshwar could feature as well. Shardul has had a couple of excellent seasons of domestic cricket, and he will be ready to make his Test debut if needed.

Conclusion: A settled batting line-up, four all-rounders and a five-pronged pace attack makes this an intimidating side. India’s last Test series victory outside Asia came in the West Indies in 2011, which was followed by four years of disappointment overseas. India will hope that life will come a full circle and this tour of West Indies will kick-start a period of success outside the subcontinent as well. Kohli’s captaincy will be tested, but he has proven himself up to the challenge.

India Test squad for West Indies tour: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Stuart Binny.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is an animal lover and comic, film and TV geek. A fast bowler at heart, he enjoys watching a good, low-scoring game of cricket. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)