Preview: India vs West Indies - A preparation for the Australia tour
The result of the forthcoming India-West Indies Test series seems to be a foregone conclusion, the so-called glorious uncertainties of the game notwithstanding. Though the focus of the Indian team should be on winning the series convincingly, it will be wise if they use the series to address some of the issues that they faced in England.
Here are some of these issues that they need to find a solution to in this series, so that they are much better prepared, come the Australia series.
The Opening Conundrum: The two first-choice opening batsmen for India for the last few years – Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan – have been rightly jettisoned. They, especially Dhawan, lacked the technique to perform consistently in pacey and swing-friendly conditions abroad. KL Rahul, thanks to his heroics in the dead rubber Test in England, seems to have saved his place for the time being.
He seems to have a good technique and has all the shots, but he needs to improve his temperament – his conversion rate from a fifty to a hundred is atrocious, to say the least. He needs to use this series to cement his place.
Assuming that Rahul cements his place as one of the two opening batsmen, the second opening batsman slot has to be from among Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal. At the time of writing this, the Indian team management has already decided on the playing twelve for the first test.
They have left Agarwal out from the twelve. This gives the young Shaw a golden opportunity to book his place by scoring heavily against a Roach-less depleted West Indies side in familiar home conditions.
One feels the more seasoned Agarwal could have been given a chance as well, as he is in the form of his life. Technically, Shaw has a major flaw – he leaves a big gap between bat and pad, a bit too frequently for an opening batsman. So, if he scores heavily, one needs to keep an eye not just on the number of runs he scores, but the manner in which he scores.
Exploring Pace Bowling Options: In the absence of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma who are going to be automatic selections for Australia series, Shami is the spearhead of this attack. Shami too is a guaranteed selection for the Australia tour. Like Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Siraj who is also enjoying a terrific run of form, seems to be unlucky to have missed out from the playing eleven for the first test.
But this presents an opportunity to the talented, but inconsistent Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur to showcase their potential. For the Australia tour, India may go with six pace bowlers. So, the remaining two places will be decided from among Umesh, Shardul and Siraj.
Maybe, the team management needs to rest Shami for the second Test and give an opportunity to these three pacers to prove their credentials.
Exploring the Spin Option: Except for the Sydney Test, India is likely to go with just one spinner for all the other tests in Australia. Barring few exceptions, Ashwin’s performances abroad have been abysmally bad – the fourth England test at Southampton being the latest example of how he lets his team down when his team needs his the most.
He will surely perform very well against the West Indies, just as he has done in almost all home tests. But he cannot be trusted to be the lone spinner when India decides to have only one spinner in the Australia tests.
Regardless of his performance in the West Indies series, the team management must decide from among Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav to don that role in Australia. This West Indies series should not lure Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri into making Ashwin their lead spinner in Australia.