1st Test: India gear up for red ball challenge vs West Indies

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NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA), August 21: A perfect combination and a winning start will be foremost on skipper Virat Kohli’s mind when India take on West Indies in their inaugural World Test Championship opener here on Thursday.
A win in the opening Test will be the 27th for Kohli as skipper and will put him on even keel with his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni. A century in the game (19th as captain) will place him on par with Ricky Ponting.
On paper, a batting line-up that has Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant in the ranks should be termed clear favourites but this West Indies team, led by Jason Holder, is no pushover.
England found that out the hard way at the start of the year when they lost a Test series 1-2 in some of the most lively pitches on the Caribbean islands in recent times.
One such pacer-friendly wicket was at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua where Kohli and his men will be facing the Windies first up.
“People have been talking about Test cricket not being relevant or dying down. For me, the competition has gone up two-fold the last couple of years. It’s up to the players to take the challenge and go for victories,” Kohli said about the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship.
“The games are going to be much more competitive and it brings a lot of purpose to the Test matches you play. It’s the right move and at the absolute right time,” Kohli said.
The last Test played here saw England scoring 187 and 132 but that was a different time of the year.
Nevertheless, Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri, who recently got a fresh contract, will be wary of the challenge that can be posed by the new ball pair of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel along with Jason Holder bowling his steady seam-up spells.
If there is pace and bounce, Kohli is likely to go with four specialist bowlers in which Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav will be fighting for the lone spinner’s slot.
The three pacers, in all likelihood, will be Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.
However, it is the batting combination that will be the skipper’s primary worry and if he can get it right, that will be considered as a tactical victory.
In an ideal situation, if Hardik Pandya was available, Kohli would have been tempted to drop one among Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane but given the recent record of West Indies in Tests, he might go in with an extra batsman which means both will feature in the playing XI.
World Test Championship: Indian players to don numbered Test jerseys for the first time
As India and West Indies get ready to lock horns in the two-match Test series, jersey numbers of Indian cricketers have been revealed, and skipper Virat Kohli will be sporting number 18 on his back.
The official handle of the Indian cricket team revealed the jersey numbers of the players through Instagram stories.
The introduction of having numbers behind the Test jerseys has been criticised by several former players.
In the ongoing Ashes, players have been sporting numbered jerseys and this addition has been criticised by former players like Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Kevin Pietersen.
The decision to introduce numbered jerseys was taken by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to make the game more appealing to the youth and this tradition will be followed throughout the World Test Championship.
Both teams will now lock horns in the two-match Test series, slated to begin from August 22 in Antigua.
The series will be a part of the World Test Championship.
(PTI/ANI)