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Indian National Selectors on Saturday (Sep 29) have announced the 15-member squad for the two match Test series against West Indies, which gets underway from October 04 in Rajkot. The second Test match of the series will be played in Hyderabad starting from October 12.
With India’s tour of Australia looming large, Indian selectors have made brave decisions while selecting the squad for Windies Tests. India, who were led by Rohit Sharma, are coming into this tournament after being crowned Asia Cup champions for a record seventh time. Virat Kohli was rested for the Asia Cup tournament, while he is now back to lead India in the longest format of the game.
Starting from dropping both the openers to handing maiden call-ups to some of the in-form players, there are many things Indian selectors have done differently. Though the series against West Indies is expected to be a lopsided affair, heavily tilted towards India, these small things will have its effect on the upcoming tour of Australia. Let us analyze India’s squad for the two Test matches against West Indies.
Dropped Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay:
On the positive side, Indian selectors seemed to have learnt their lessons from the failures in India’s recent tour of England. India toiled hard to build an effective opening partnership in all the five Test matches against England – 60 between Rahul and Dhawan in the third Test match was India’s best opening stand. Only thrice in 10 innings, Indian openers managed to register a fifty-plus first wicket partnership in England tour.
Vijay: It has been a tough 2018 for him especially with the bat. He scored just 233 runs in the six Test matches (five Overseas Tests and a Test match in India) played this year at a below par average of around 21. His only 50+ score this year in Tests came against Afghanistan (105 runs) played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Surprisingly, Vijay had a batting average of 52 in the six Test matches (all in India) in the year 2017!
Dhawan: His performance in the long format has come under the radar in the recent past, during which he was brilliant either against Sri Lanka or Afghanistan and failed against others. Dhawan’s batting average in 2018 was around 27 (in six Test matches), while it was close to 69 in 2017 (in five Tests, all against Sri Lanka). Against the top five ranked Test nations, Dhawan last registered a 50+ score in 2014 – 81 against Australia at the Gabba in 2014.
Meanwhile, India have included Prithvi Shaw in the squad. He earned his maiden call-up for the fourth and fifth Test matches against England but he did not feature in any of those Test matches. It is pretty clear that Shaw, along with Lokesh Rahul, is set to open India’s innings against West Indies, unless any one of them gets injured.
Maiden Call-up for Mayank Agarwal and Mohammad Siraj:
Both players have been knocking on the door for quite some time with brilliant performances in the First Class (FC) circuit. In the last Ranji Trophy season, Mayank Agarwal has been consistent with the bat. He amassed a total of 1160 runs in the eight games at a brilliant average of just over 105. He scored two half centuries and five centuries with a best score of unbeaten 304* (against Maharashtra).
Mayank has been superb with the bat, even playing for India A with centuries in England and in India against top opponents. His 220 in a four-day game against South Africa A stands out from the rest of his performances! On the other hand, Mohammad Siraj has been prolific with the ball, picking up 40 wickets in his last five FC games, which include an 8-fer against the mighty looking Australia A.
Both players, however, will face a tough battle to make their debut for India during this Test series against Windies. Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari will fight for the one remaining spot in the middle order. Mohammad Siraj will have to fight with Shami and Umesh for a place in India’s Playing XI.
The first player in this list should be Karun Nair. He was named in India’s squad for the five match Test series against England but he did not feature in a single Test match. Moreover, he is now named as the captain of the Presidents’ Board XI for the warm-up game against West Indies and he is unlucky to miss out the Test matches. Above all, Karun Nair is the only triple centurion for India after Virender Sehwag.
The inclusion of Shardul Thakur in this squad has raised a lot of eyebrows. He is yet to make his Test debut for India but his bowling average in the FC format is not at all great. In 55 FC games, he picked up 188 wickets at an average of just under 29. He made his ODI debut for India but picked up only six wickets in his five ODIs at a bowling average of just over 36, which is very high.
Hanuma Vihari, who scored a half century and picked up a three-wicket haul on debut at the Oval against England, has retained his place in the Test squad. Being a batting all-rounder, he will almost feature in India’s playing XI for the first Test match against West Indies in Rajkot.
Indian selectors, considering the workload, have rested both the in-form pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. After missing out the whole five match Test series against England owing to back injury, Bhuvi recently featured in the Asia Cup and played his part in taking India to victory in the final against Bangladesh.
Jasprit Bumrah, on the other hand, played the last three Test matches in England and also featured in the Asia Cup tournament. Earlier, he injured his finger while taking a return catch off his own bowling against Ireland. That kept him out of the team for the most part of the England tour. Resting these two pacers has always been on the cards, with India’s tour of Australia to follow.
Meanwhile, Hardik Pandya and Ishant Sharma have yet to recover from recently sustained injuries.
Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur