Kohli mulls team combination as India begin World Test Championship campaign
Virat Kohli is one win away from becoming India's most successful Test captain. (Image: BCCI Twitter)

Eight months since they beat Australia on their home turf to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, India return to Test cricket against the West Indies in the Caribbean. The Windies may not be a force as formidable as Australia at home, but the two-Test series hold plenty of significance for the No. 1 Test side in the World. The first Test at Antigua is the beginning of India’s World Test championship ride, and for Virat Kohli, there is no better start than winning an away Test series.

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India’s last Test assignment in the Caribbean saw Virat Kohli lift the trophy securing a 2-0 win. Three years later, India are once again on a rampage, having already blanked the hosts 3-0 in Tests and 2-0 in ODIs. But despite starting favourites in Tests, India will be wary of the threat West Indies are capable of posing at home. It was only last year that England beat India 4-1 at home before travelling to Sri Lanka and winning a maiden Test series since 2001.

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

But remember what happened when they landed in the Caribbean? West Indies thumped them in the first two matches and just like that, England received a rude shock. West Indies have retained the core of that team for the India series. Moreover, their emergence as a formidable fast bowling unit makes them a lot more threatening at home. In 2016, West Indies had Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins and Miguel Cummins. This time around, along with Gabriel, West Indies have Keemo Paul and Kemar Roach. And then there is the much talked-about allrounder Rahkeem Cornwall.

INDIA vs WEST INDIES SCHEDULE | LATEST NEWS

For India, it will be Ravi Shastri’s first assignment after being re-appointed as the head coach. India have a familiar line-up to the one that faced Australia and beat them earlier this year, but despite that, there ought to be some selection dilemmas. Rohit Sharma, on the back of a superlative World Cup performance, has earned a Test berth and the real toss-up for Virat Kohli will be between his limited-overs deputy, Test deputy Ajinkya Rahane or a fifth specialist bowler.

With two more high-profile Tests with a strong following starting Thursday, Kohli will eye a winning start as India take their first step towards Lord’s 2021, where the final of the World Test Championship will be played.

What: India vs West Indies, 1st Test

When: August 22 to 26, 2019

Time: 7:30 pm

Venue: Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua

Team News

India

India’s top four look sorted with Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul set to open the innings, followed by Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3 and Kohli at No. 4. But there onward is where the quandary begins. Does Kohli go with Rohit or Rahane, as playing both will close the option of a fifth bowler. Considering Kohli has always been an advocator of playing five bowlers, Rohit is likely to get the nod ahead of Rahane. The cushion of Hanuma Vihari gives India assurance at No. 6 followed by Wriddhiman Saha most likely at 7. Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are expected to be the two pacers while R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja handle spin.

Probable XI: 1 KL Rahul, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Wriddhiman Saha/Rishabh Pant, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

West Indies

John Campbell is expected to open with Kraigg Brathwaite, with Cornwall and Chase performing spin duties. Gabriel and Roach are likely to share the new ball.

Probable XI: 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 John Campbell, 3 Shai Hope, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 Shane Dowrich, 8 Rahkeem Cornwall, 9 Jason Holder, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Shannon Gabriel

Stats and Trivia

– Kohli is two wins away from surpassing MS Dhoni to become India’s most successful Test captain

– Jadeja needs eight wickets to complete the mark of 200 in Tests

– Ashwin needs eight wicket to become the fourth Indian bowler to 350 Test wickets

– Bumrah needs one wicket to draw level with Narendra Hirwani as the second-fastest to 50 wickets from India