India vs West Indies 1st Test: Questions for India
KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav: in or out?

India, ranked No 1 in Tests, resume playing the five-day format for the first time since January when they go up against West Indies at North Sound today.

The first Test between India and West Indies is the opening match for both teams in the new ICC World Test Championship, which began August 1 with the Ashes series in England.

INDIA vs WEST INDIES SCHEDULE | LATEST NEWS

In their first Test in eight months, India have a few issues.

WHO WILL OPEN?

The options are, ostensibly, two: India open with Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul, or Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari.

Agarwal is a certainty given how well he batted in Australia. Handed a belated Test debut  after being called up to India’s squad after the Perth Test, Agarwal made an immediate impact with 76 as opener at the MCG and then in the second innings, while Pat Cummins ran through the batting, the made a dogged 42.

(READ: Stats milestones nearing for Kohli, Pant, Bumrah and others)

At the SCG, a maiden Test hundred for Agarwal in his third innings was there for the taking until he found long-on when looking to hit a second six off Nathan Lyon in one over. Agarwal looked the part in Australia and will get another chance in the West Indies.

The question is: who joins him?

KL Rahul was dropped after the Perth Test.
KL Rahul was dropped after the Perth Test in December. © AFP

In Australia, Rahul batted five times and scored 57 runs, of which 44 came in one innings. Around that knock which promised so much more, he made  2, 2, 0 and 9. Rahul has some ODI success to point at since then, but his return as a Test opener is not straightforward.

(READ: India World Test Championship schedule: All you need to know)

After scoring a fifty on Test debut in England last year, batting in the middle order, Vihari was thrust into the opening role in Australia last December in only his third Test. Having played 104 first-class games, and opened just three times, he scored 8 off 66 balls in an opening stand of 40 with Agarwal that spanned 18.5 overs – the longest any Indian opening Test pair has batted in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries since July 2011.

In the next Test, Vihari was back at No 6 and made 42 while Rahul returned as opener.

WHO BATS AT SIX?

Rohit Sharma remains a white-ball behemoth who can’t nail down a spot in India’s Test team. If Vihari does not get the nod as opener, he could be used at No 6.

Rohit had flown home from Australia before the Sydney Test to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, and that meant that Vihari kept his place. But given his outstanding World Cup this summer, Rohit may have moved past Vihari for the No 6 spot.

Rohit Sharma Ajinkya Rahane
Rohit Sharma Ajinkya Rahane could be vying for the same spot. © AFP

In Australia, Rohit batted well in Adelaide to get to 37 before a needless shot across the line cut him off on 37 and raised questions, once again, over his temperament. He then missed out in Perth with injury, and returned for the MCG Test where he made a fluent unbeaten 63 and 5.

Leading India A in the West Indies recently, Vihari scored 224 runs in three unofficial Tests, at an average of 44.80. This week, he made 64 in India’s tour match against West Indies A.

CAN RAHANE TURN AROUND HIS FORM?

Ajinkya Rahane‘s Test career has nosedived over the past few years. So much so, that he has not scored a century in over two years. In 28 innings since then, Rahane has averaged 24.85 with five half-centuries.

How has India’s best overseas batsman from 2014 to 2016 ended up like this?

During the Indians’ second innings against West Indies A, he promoted himself to open and scored 54 from 162 balls. He should play the first Test, but with Rohit and Vihari around and young batsmen like Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw pressing for selection in the top order, Rahane may not have a lot of time left.

Umesh Yadav bowling
Umesh Yadav hopes to make it back to India’s Test XI. © BCCI

TWO SPINNERS, THREE PACERS?

Kohli backs his bowlers to take wickets in order to win games. Playing five bowlers is something he’s tried. But that means dropping a batsman.

With Hardik Pandya out of the series, Ravindra Jadeja is the allrounder. He scored a century in his last Test, but could find himself behind R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav. Ashwin has been India’s No 1 spin bowler in Tests for several years, while wristspinner Kuldeep has impressed in his six Tests. He took a five-wicket haul in his last Test, at the SCG in January.

India are carrying four pacers and there are three possible spots. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma are the top three followed by Umesh Yadav.

Bumrah’s outstanding Test run in 2018 and Shami’s strong return to the format put them ahead of Umesh, who was part of India’s Test squad that toured Australia but played one of four matches. Ishant has come along splendidly as a Test bowler over the past two seasons, and also looks a shoo-in.

Since the IPL ended in May, Umesh has played just one first-class match for India A in the West Indies recently – taking two wickets – and then claimed 3/19 from 10 overs in the tour match.