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 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.
If a green-top is provided and Kohli still goes with five bowlers which includes Ravindra Jadeja as an all-rounder, it could well be a toss-up between the two Mumbaikars. The other issue will be at the top of the order as to who will open with Mayank Agarwal.
The common logic says KL Rahul, who is a specialist opener, but Hanuma Vihari was sent to do the fire-fighting in Australia and it would be unfair to not give him another opportunity against a relatively easier pace attack.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rakheem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.
The match begins at 7 pm (IST).