The touring Indians arrived in St. Kitts on Thursday, after a really long journey which began on Tuesday evening from the Mumbai airport. Upon arrival, almost every member of India’s squad for the tour of West Indies, sent in his birthday wish for MS Dhoni, who celebrated his 35th birthday yesterday, on the same day Ramzan was celebrated as well.
India’s tour of West Indies is Anil Kumble’s first assignment as coach of the Indian Cricket Team, which underwent a preparatory camp at the NCA in Bengaluru from June 29th, before leaving for the West Indies. Yoga and ‘team bonding’ were among the activities which India’s 17-member squad for the four-Test series against the West Indies, indulged in along with batting, bowling and fielding drills. Kumble, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and Rahul Dravid also met to discuss the roadmap, which was organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), for the year ahead (2016-17) in Indian Cricket.
Having arrived in the Caribbean yesterday, Kohli’s India will take on West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) President’s XI in a two-day tour match beginning tomorrow at Warner Park in Basseterre, St. Kitts. What will be their main objectives from the tour match v WICB President’s XI, the first of the two tour matches before the Test series proper begins in Antigua on July 21st?
India’s squad for the tour of West Indies: Kohli (C), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Umesh Yadav.
India tour match v WICB President’s XI
For a start, every member of India’s squad will look to get a hit and also bowl a few overs in the two tour matches in St. Kitts. Tour matches are designed for the visiting team to get as much practice as possible, and so, all the 17 players in India’s squad will get a chance to bat and bowl during the two-day tour match v WICB President’s XI led by Leon Johnson.
The Indian team management will also be able to have a look at the players who can make a difference to the Indian side during the four-Test series. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, and maybe Lokesh Rahul too, from the batting department, will look to put their best foot forward in the tour games, as each one of them ‘is’ in a fight for places in India’s playing XI for the first Test.
The bowling attack should really pick itself, with Shami replacing Varun Aaron from India’s squad for the home Test series against South Africa in November-December 2015. Ishant will be the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack. However, the tour games will also give Kohli and Kumble the chance to assess India’s best possible playing combination. Kohli has always made his penchant for playing five specialist bowlers clear, though he will be aware that bolstering the bowling attack would weaken India’s batting line-up. Saha has yet to prove himself as a reliable batsman at No. 6 and R Jadeja too, has yet to bring even half of his wonderful batting performances from the Ranji Trophy to the international scene. So Kohli and Kumble will have to discuss and assess, during these two tour matches, the right playing combination India can go in with, for the first Test in Antigua.
Secondly, the touring Indians will also look to acclimatise themselves before the Test series proper begins. They have ample time to get used to the Caribbean weather and also assess the nature of the playing surfaces. India have played at the Warner Park in Basseterre, St. Kitts before when they toured West Indies in 2006, but they are back in the Caribbean Islands after a gap of five years. So, Kohli and co. will have to adapt to the prevalent conditions.
Pitches in the West Indies have become slower over the years and India, after all, might not find the playing surfaces in Antigua, Jamaica, Gros Islet, and Trinidad to be much different from what they get back home. Yet, the Ishant-led Indian bowling attack has to assess the right lengths to bowl and basically, regain their rhythm: India last played a Test match seven months ago, at home against South Africa. From that point of view as well, India have some adapting to do in order to be well-equipped to beat the West Indies at their own den.
India will have been in the West Indies for 14 days and played two tour games when they face off against Jason Holder’s men in Antigua on July 21st. As aforementioned, every member of the squad will get a chance to showcase what he can do with bat and ball during the tour games, to put himself in the fray for being picked in India’s playing XI for the first Test. The men who matter, Kohli and Kumble, will keep a close eye on individual performances during these two tour matches, while the regulars in the Indian Test line-up will want to get used to the prevalent conditions.
Are you excited about what India can achieve on their tour of the West Indies? Which players, according to you, will thrive in the Caribbean? Tell us in the comments below.