Will the Indian Think-tank Look to Experiment with India’s Playing XI for the Final Test v West Indies?

The Indian playing XI for the final Test in Trinidad might have a few changes, but the Indian team management will be keen to not affect the balance of the side.

After winning the third Test by a whopping 237 runs and taking an unassailable 0-2 lead in the four-Test series against the West Indies, the Indian Test captain said: “Now we can play with more positive intent in Trinidad and express ourselves fully and understand the areas we still need to improve on.”

Virat Kohli’s words do not give us an indication whether the Indian playing XI for the final Test at the Queen’s Park Oval will have changes made to it, but the visitors will be under no pressure whatsoever and they have the platform to plan and prepare for the upcoming home series against New Zealand, England and Australia—three teams who are set to tour India between September 2016 and March 2017.

India have played outstandingly well against the Windies and fully deserve their current 0-2 lead, but this Indian team led by Kohli and coached by Anil Kumble will not be resting on their laurels and would want to keep transcending themselves. Given the window India have for making changes to the side which played and won in St Lucia, let us take a look at the playing XI India can go in with, for the final Test against Jason Holder’s men. Read on.

Ideal Indian Playing XI for Trinidad Test

After failing to bowl West Indies out on the final day of the Jamaica Test, changes were expected in the Indian side—in the batting and bowling departments—for the Gros Islet Test. However, the eye-catcher of the three changes which were made to India’s playing XI, was Murali Vijay not returning to the side even after he had recovered from the thumb injury. Rohit Sharma replaced Cheteshwar Pujara in the Indian playing XI, which also had Bhuvneshwar Kumar coming in place of Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja replacing Amit Mishra, and India’s batting order was also shuffled to accommodate Rohit and protect him from being exposed to facing the new ball.

Now, the Bhuvneshwar-R Jadeja-Rohit trio did fare well at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, with Bhuvneshwar being the standout performer of the three and also playing a significant role in India going on to win the Test by 208 runs. If the UP seamer had not bowled that stupendous spell in which he took 5-14 from 8.2 overs with the second new ball during the post-lunch session on day four, we might well have witnessed another drawn Test.

Bhuvneshwar sealed his place in the Indian playing XI for the Trinidad Test, through his first innings bowling performance in St Lucia. R Jadeja and Rohit did not do badly, though they did not come up with a captivating performance. With Bhuvneshwar being a certainty in the Indian playing XI and R Jadeja and Rohit highly unlikely to be dropped, could there be any changes at all for the Trinidad Test?

Shikhar Dhawan has scored 54 runs in the three innings following his 84 in Antigua and the Delhi southpaw will not be in a comfortable space ahead of the Trinidad Test. Vijay has been a consistent performer in the Indian Test side since the 2014 tour of England and dropping him for a second consecutive Test will be extremely harsh. So, the Indian think-tank does have a dicey situation to negotiate before handing over the team sheet to the match referee. Unenviably for S Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul has assured himself of one of the two opener’s slots, with scores of 158, 50 and 28 in Jamaica and St Lucia. Given the fierce competition for places, which was the reason Pujara and Umesh were replaced with Rohit and Bhuvneshwar respectively, the Indian team management can bring in Vijay for the underperforming S Dhawan at the top of India’s batting order.

Vijay coming in will probably not change India’s batting order from the St Lucia Test, though Rohit could be promoted to No. 3 because the series has been won and India have the perfect platform for experimenting. Kohli can then bat at his natural position (No.4), followed by Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin to complete India’s batting line-up.

The Indian bowling attack, given the way it has fared as a unit, does not have any place up for grabs, literally, unless the Indian team management decides to rest Ishant Sharma and/or Mohammed Shami. Shardul Thakur and Stuart Binny remain the only two players in India’s 17-man squad to have not played any part in the ongoing Test series against the West Indies. But again, there is little to no scope for sentiments in this Indian Test side led by Kohli, providing very little hope for this duo, of featuring in the Indian playing XI for the Trinidad Test. Therefore, unless the India team management decides to go in with a different combination (6-1-4 or 7-1-3) from what they have (5-1-5) in the three Tests so far, Binny and Thakur will sit out the Trinidad Test as well.

Indian Playing XI for Trinidad Test: V Kohli (C), M Vijay, KL Rahul, R Sharma, A Rahane, R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, B Kumar, R Jadeja, M Shami, and I Sharma.

Summary

Because India have performed as a unit in the four-Test series against the West Indies, scope for changes to India’s playing XI for the Trinidad Test is very little. Vijay could well come in for S Dhawan in a straight swap, but, unless the Indian team management decides to rest Ishant and/or Shami, I really cannot see Binny and Thakur getting a game and even Mishra and Umesh coming back into the side after sitting out the St Lucia Test.

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