India’s bench strength in spotlight in low-key series

Match details

SCA Stadium, Rajkot
October 4 to 8, 9:30 IST
Live on Star Sports, streaming on Hotstar

The main picture

For a team who are striving to become a good travelling team, a Test series in familiar home conditions and against an opponent who have not been the most competitive in recent times is hardly significant. That said, the aftermath of a frustrating England tour which exposed India’s frailties big time is crucial. Primarily because India’s previous first-choice opening combination has been dropped (unsurprisingly) and this two-Test series offers a chance for Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal to show they belong at the highest level. For Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari, too, this series is another opportunity to put a seal on their places in the squad for the tour of Australia, having been favoured over Dinesh Karthik and Karun Nair respectively.

In the bowling department, the rest afforded to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, and Hardik Pandya means Shardul Thakur and maybe even Mohammed Siraj might get a taste of Test cricket, giving them the chance to seal the fifth fast bowler’s spot in the squad for the tour of Australia.

India are not only the favourite to win the first Test but they also are the favourite to win the Test series, which is one of the last two for Stuart Law as coach of West Indies. West Indies whitewashed Bangladesh at home in their last Test series and the form of their bowlers, particularly of Shannon Gabriel and captain Jason Holder, bodes well for the Test series against India, who admittedly boast more accomplished Test batsmen.

The biggest key to success for West Indies is their batting against India’s spinners. A lot of the responsibility rests on the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, among others. The battle between India’s spinners and the visiting batsmen, as is almost always the case, will decide the winner of this two-Test series.

Rajkot pitch report and weather forecast

The Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) Stadium in Rajkot will be hosting only its second Test match. The pitch for its debut Test match was a batting beauty and expect no less than another batting beauty this time also. The spinners will come into the equation as the Test match progresses.

Rajkot has been extremely hot in the days leading up to the start of the first Test and the temperature on the five days of the Test is predicted to hover in the late-30s (degree Celsius).

India vs West Indies head to head in Test

Despite a 16-year wait for a Test series win over India—West Indies last beat India in a Test series at home or away from home in 2002 (at home)—the two-time world champion boast a 30-18 win-loss record against the currently No. 1-ranked Test team. 46 of the 94 Tests between these teams have ended in a draw. On Indian soil, too, West Indies hold a superior head to head record of 16-7 in 49 Tests.

India vs West Indies playing 11 for 1st Test

Probable India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 Ravichandran Ashwin, 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav

Possible West Indies playing XI: 1 Jason Holder (c), 2 Kraigg Brathwaite, 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Shai Hope, 6 Roston Chase, 7 Shane Dowrich (wk), 8 Sunil Ambris, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Shannon Gabriel, 11 Keemo Paul

Match prediction

West Indies have to play out of their skin to rectify a poor recent record against India, who, at home, are expected to be dominant.

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