india-celebrate-a-wicket
Team India celebrates a wicket in Test Series against Sri Lanka © AFP

After Team India‘s tour of Zimbabwe, its upcoming season will comprise of 17 Test matches. India will commence this exhausting yet thrilling season by locking horns with West Indies in their own den, in July 2016. It will be a stern test for Virat Kohli‘s men to maintain their fitness as well as jump up in the Test rankings. Reports emerged that selectors will reveal the 15-man squad that will face the Caribbean challenge on May 23. And, they are unlikely to chop and change many players who helped India come up triumphant against South Africa last season. Let’s walk through the probable 15-man squad for India against the West Indies. READ: India announce squad for West Indies tour 2016; Ajinkya Rahane named vice-captain

Top-order: The opening duo of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan displayed a stellar performance against Bangladesh last year. They stitched up 283-run partnership on what turned out to be a dust-bowl. Dhawan was adjudged Player of the Match for his blistering 173-run knock. Vijay, on the other hand, has been India’s most successful batsmen in Test arena. Be it on home soil or in foreign condition, he has used his skills and temperament to keep India on course even in tough times.

At No. 3 comes Cheteshwar Pujara. He has been leading India’s resurgence ever since Rahul Dravid called it a day. He has played many characteristic innings for the past 3 years. He has scored 2,420 runs at 47.45, with a best score of unbeaten 206.

The batsman who has ‘reasonably’ filled Sachin Tendulkar’s shoes at No. 4 is Kohli. He has plundered 11 hundreds in 41 matches and he been leading by example since MS Dhoni retired from the longest format. He made history by bringing India to the doorstep of victory in Sri Lanka after 22 years. The nation will expecting him to emulate a similar feat in West Indies. Read: Ravi Shastri unlikely to get renewal as Team India Director

Middle-order: India’s middle order is as classy and belligerent as its top order. At No. 5 bats the class-apart Ajinkya Rahane. He helped India win a Test match at the iconic Lord’s after 28 years. In fact, it was his 103-run knock that put India in a commanding position.

If the top order fails to deliver, a batman who can steady the ship with his sound technique is Wriddhiman Saha. His numbers at international level may not speak volumes of his abilities, but is indeed a Test match material. In Caribbean’s windy conditions, he will be handy to tackle the swing.

Ravindra Jadeja is the only Indian player to score three triple centuries in domestic cricket. Going back to the Lord’s victory; Jadeja smashed 68 runs off just 57 balls in conditions that favoured the bowlers. Indeed, he’ll play a key role at No. 7 and keep the scoreboard ticking with tailenders.

Bowlers: Given Kohli likes to play with five bowlers, Jadeja is likely feature in the playing XI, mainly because of his bowling abilities. And, for a finger spinner to scalp 68 wickets at an average of 23.76 is even more commendable.  Read: Anurag Thakur not youngest-ever BCCI President

To partner Jadeja in the spin department is Ravichandran Ashwin. He was awarded Player of the Series in two consecutive series, that is, against Sri Lanka and South Africa in 2015. In fact, he has many records to his name. He is the fastest Indian to take 100 wickets as well 150 wickets in Tests. Such has been the prominence of this swashbuckling off-spinner!

In the pace department, India has the trio of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron.

The last time Shami played a Test was in January 2015, Down Under. He has been struggling with injuries since and failed to find a place in the squad. Now that he up and running, he will like to get back to his prime and dominate the opposition like he did in his debut Test match.

Ishant, on the other hand, has been leading India’s pace attack for the past few years. As a matter of fact, he will be the most experienced campaigner in the team. He is likely to open the bowling with the fiery Aaron. In the Test series against the Proteas, Aaron bowled a peach of a delivery to dismantle the defence of the elegant Hashim Amla on a track that had nothing to offer for the pacers. Moreover, captain fearless—Kohli—has been backing Aaron ever since he held the reigns. Read: India to pick ODI, T20I squads for tours of Zimbabwe, Test squad for West Indies on May 23

Players likely to be benched: The four players who are likely to be benched in the first Test are Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Umesh Yadav and Amit Mishra. If one of the batsmen gets injured or finds it difficult to find his feat, the elegant Rohit will fill in the spot. Rahul, on the other hand, will play a role of a backup wicketkeeper. Yadav will get a chance if either of the pacers fail to provide impetus. Mishra, on the other hand, will play if the track is a square turner.

India’s probable 15-man squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandra Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Amit Mishra

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_