2019–21 ICC World Test Championship: India's 2019 schedule, expectations, and predictions
The year 2019 brings in a lot of excitement for cricket fans around the world, as we not only have the World Cup this year but will also see the beginning of the first leg of the World Test Championship. After almost a decade when the ICC approved the idea of a Test Championship, the tournament will finally begin in July 2019 and will end with a final which is scheduled to take place in June 2021.
The inaugural edition will feature nine of the twelve Test playing nations, with each of them playing a Test series against six of the other eight teams (three at home and three away). The number of matches in each series will vary between 2 and 5, however, maximum points each team will be able to score from each series is 120. The two teams with most points at the end of the league stage will battle out in the final for the trophy.
India are slotted to play against West Indies, Bangladesh, New Zealand, England, Australia, and South Africa.
Here we analyze the schedule for the Indian team and look at India's chances in each series in 2019:
India vs West Indies, July 2019 (in West Indies)
The league stage of the Test Championship begins with India touring West Indies for a 2-match series. The men in blue, currently on the cusp of their maiden series win in Australia, will be playing the longest format of the game after a gap of nearly 7 months. The last time India played in the Caribbean, the home side were defeated 2-0 in a 4-match series.
The result does not seem to change much this time either, considering the gap in qualities of the two sides. What Kohli and co should be looking at is gaining maximum possible points from this series, but at the same time, not take the opposition lightly. West Indies, despite being a weak force in modern day cricket, do possess the talent to cause an upset and Indian team needs to be aware of it.
India are expected to use this series to breed the likes of Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw as openers, and Hanuma Vihari in the middle order. Some game time for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav will also be of great significance considering the heavy workload for the other three in the next two years.
Prediction: 2-0 (India)
India vs South Africa, Oct 2019 (in India)
The South Africans will be touring India with an intention to better their performance of 2015 when they lost 3-0 in the four-match series. The tracks on offer during the series will be interesting to see as the last series was filled with rank turners which came under much criticism.
The current Proteas team, sans AB De Villiers, will find it even more difficult against the rampaging Indian side, who not only have to worry just about India's spinners but also the strong pace attack which has been remarkably consistent over the last year. South Africa need someone to assist Keshav Maharaj in order to trouble the Indian batsmen in India.
The likes of Rabada and Ngidi will not be pushovers though, considering their abilities and the presence of Steyn, which is not a certainty, will be of great help for the Proteas.
The major concern will be their batting, which failed miserably in Sri Lanka. Barring Faf du Plessis and Amla, none of the Proteas batsmen have enough experience of playing in India and thus will find it tough to get adjusted and need some time to get going. Indians, on the other hand, will be itching to avenge the 2-1 loss in South Africa in 2018 and are certainly the favorites for the series by miles.
Despite all these, South Africa are not a team to be taken lightly. The defeat in Sri Lanka might be a blessing in disguise for them which will give them an idea of where they stand against the subcontinent spinners in the subcontinent conditions. Otis Gibson will leave no stone unturned in making sure the preparations are up to the mark.
One great spell from someone like Maharaj and we can see the game turn on its head, just like the Pune Test against Australia in 2017. What the Australia series taught other teams was that Indians late not invincible at home and can be beaten in their own game.
Thus, South Africa winning the series seems to be highly unlikely at the moment, but one cannot rule out the possibility of a Test win in India after 8 years.
Prediction: 2-1 (India)
India vs Bangladesh, Nov 2019 (in India)
India will end the Test calendar of the year with a 2-match home series against Bangladesh. The series is not expected to be much of a contest, considering the huge gap between the sides in terms of quality as well as experience. It can not be denied that Bangladesh are a much-improved side and have beaten the best of teams at home, but their record away from home has not been anywhere near their home record.
Mushfiqur and Shakib will be the key to Bangladesh's chances in the series. However, they need to perform as a team and execute the plans to perfection, as individual brilliance would not be enough to beat India in India.
India will, however, be looking to gain maximum points from the series, considering this will be their best chance to boost the points as the two of the next three assignments will be the tough, Australia and New Zealand tours. By this time, India are expected to have a settled top six and good enough bench strength. A few top bowlers might be rested considering the busy schedule over the next couple of years.
Prediction: 2-0 (India)