India seek course correction at home

Indian cricket team practice ahead of their first match in the India-West Indies test series, in Rajkot, Tuesday, Oct 2, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Rajkot: If the much-hyped one-off Test against Afghanistan is ignored, India’s run in the longer format has been far from praiseworthy this year.

The struggle was on expected lines. South Africa and England beckoned India after their all-conquering show in 2017. Talks of confidence and creating history preceded the two series’ but it was a different story altogether on the pitch.

India are still the number one Test side. But they will know that the ranking can only remain a pretty number following their two humbling overseas experiences. In a battered state, India return to familiar conditions to regain confidence.

When Virat Kohli’s men take on the West Indies in the first Test here at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium (SCA) from Thursday, they will be looking to snap their disappointing form.

It shouldn’t be an arduous task for the hosts to overhaul a West Indies side who are taking small steps towards regaining their lost glory in Test cricket. But the larger picture for India will be the upcoming tour of Australia. They would love to have their problems addressed ahead of a challenging assignment that involves playing four Tests.

“We would like to take this series as a benchmark we want to set. We want to make most of these two matches,” said Kohli on the eve of the game.

The opening combination, one of India’s prime issues, will see a new face when the young Prithvi Shaw walks out with K L Rahul. Shaw, who was named in the eleven on Wednesday, carries an immense burden of expectations after what he has achieved in his short yet exciting career. Even as another in-form batsman Mayank Agarwal waits for his chance, Shaw would look to make an immediate impression.

In the middle-order, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane would want to put the horrific England tour behind and do justice to their potential.         

India’s bowling, that has remained a heartening factor thanks to the brilliant show by the pacers, could see a change in the script. At their fortress, India have steam-rollered teams with their spinners. The three-prong spin attack of Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav in the playing XI indicates India’s plans for the visitors.

The West Indies aren’t short of promising players but their challenge will be to deliver as a group. Opener Kraigg Brathwaite is a composed customer. In Roston Chase and Shai Hope, the visitors have batsmen who can resurrect an innings.

With the non-availability of Kemar Roach, the West Indies will look to Shannon Gabriel. The right-arm pacer tormented Bangladesh and was the chief catalyst in West Indies’ 2-0 victory over the Tigers.

Skipper Jason Holder, whose experience in playing in India could be crucial, hoped for rookies like Sherman Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer to make a mark. “Sherman is one of our upcoming fast bowlers. He bowls with a tight line and length and he has got some batting abilities as well. Hetmyer (left-handed batsman) has had a good year and we are expecting big things from him,” he said.

Holder asserted the series will not be one-sided and his team will make India work for the win. The all-rounder will know that the task is easier said than done.

DH News Service

Playing XI: Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rajane (vice-captain), K L Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.

12th man: Shardul Thakur. 

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India seek course correction at home

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