India vs West Indies 2018: 3 things to watch out for in the first Test
India and West Indies are set to meet for the first Test match of two in what would be an all-format tour for the West Indies. Their tour begins with the first Test match set to begin at Rajkot in Gujarat. While many Indian supporters are underestimating the importance of this series, others are looking at it as an opportunity to resolve many issues ahead of the all-important away tour of Australia.
However, this series comes as a big opportunity for players from the West Indies. While the West Indians have had sporadic successes - all formats put together - during this century, they have impressed with Test match victories in the UAE and England in the last couple of years. Their 2-0 drubbing of a strong Bangladesh Test team during a home series earlier this summer should motivate them enough to try and change their record against top-ranked Test team India.
While West Indies last won a Test match in India in December 1994, their last Test victory against India anywhere in the world also came way back in 2002. While West Indies boasts of a young and raring team, India have all it takes to beat any top side - at least in their home conditions. Let us have a look at the three important areas to watch out for during this series.
India's search for the second opener
While India's seam bowling impressed one and all during India's unsuccessful tours of South Africa and England this year, their batting has been equally disappointing. Captain Virat Kohli has looked the most solid - with 879 runs from 8 Tests at an average of 55 this year. The second best player on this list - Cheteshwar Pujara has scored 413 runs in equal number of matches, averaging under 30.
KL Rahul and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane also average just around 25 this year, but the reason India has not yet ignored them is for their experience and ability to deliver in tough match conditions. Rishabh Pant impressed in his most recent international innings, scoring a 146-ball 114 while chasing an improbable target of 464 runs at the Oval - and has grabbed the wicket keeper's slot at least for the meantime.
While Rahul looks to have just grabbed the opening slot with a standalone innings of 149 in his last appearance (during the same innings), the second opener's slot is still empty with the continued failure and ousting of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. Prithvi Shaw, who was a part of India's Test squad in England; and Mayank Agarwal - the most prolific scorer during the 2017-18 domestic season, have both been included in India's Test squad for this series.
While most people are expecting Prithvi Shaw to get a look in, Mayank Agarwal's inclusion in such a small Test series means that he is also a part of India's plans for the Test series in Australia that begins in December. It would still be interesting to see which two openers India play. Shaw and Rahul is the expected opening pair, but it would be interesting to see how they respond. And if they fail, how does captain Kohli then react?