The Seagrams Royal Stag Cup Test series between West Indies and India gets underway Thursday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. The West Indies team will be looking to overcome their recent misfortunes at the Test level and transfer their 2016 dominance of international limited overs cricket into the longest version of the game.
So far in 2016 the region has tasted success in winning both men’s and women’s ICC Twenty20 World Cups as well as the Under-19 World Cup.
This series is a continuation of the West Indies, India series which was abandoned back in 2014 due to differences over payment among the West Indies players, the players association (WIPA) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). In many ways, it marks the official burying of the hatchet between the WICB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The series is expected to be a tough one for the West Indian players as they sit in eighth position in the latest ICC rankings with only Bangladesh below them. India on the other hand are in second place in the rankings and a series victory will take them closer to number one Australia in the rankings.
The West Indies have not won a Test series against anyone other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, home or away, since August 2012 and this India series is expected to be a very hard one to break that streak. The West Indies team go into this series with a few changes as well as a few senior players needing top class performances. Coach Phil Simmons stressed being patient as being very important to having success in the series.
“One of the words that we’re going to harp on a lot is how patient we are, because we tend to get bored of bowling [at] one place and doing well and not getting wickets, so we try something [else]. So we’re going to harp on this, trying to be patient and do the things that we’re doing well, continuously, so that we get the wickets, and same thing with batting. You bat long and you stick around, you work hard and you’ll get the just reward at the end,” Simmons explained.
Most senior batsman in the team Marlon Samuels has had a fine run of form in limited overs cricket recently but has failed to score over 20 in his last nine Test innings, so Samuels is due a big score early in this series. Vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo are expected to continue where they left off in Australia and gather big scores through some patient innings for the Windies side to stand any chance of scoring big against the tough Indian attack.
Rajendra Chandrika is expected to open the batting with Brathwaite and attempt once again to prove himself at the top of the order. Chandrika had a successful tour match against the Indians scoring a half-century but must transform that form to the big arena where he has so far been found wanting. Roston Chase is expected to be handed his debut in the first Test and bat at number five. His more-than-useful off-spin could prove crucial to this West Indies bowling line up. Jermanine Blackwood is expected to be given the nod over Leon Johnson and bat at number 6, ahead of wicketkeeper batsman Shane Dowrich at number seven. With West Indies opting to go with six specialist batsmen and four specialist bowlers along with wicketkeeper Dowrich, it should be an improved batting set up from their last Test match. The majority of the bowling is expected to be done by the medium-fast pair of Carlos Brathwaite and Jason Holder, leg spinner Davendra Bishoo and fast bowler Shannol Gabriel. Uncapped Miguel Cummins will likely have to wait a bit longer for his Test cap.
The Indians will know that this series will not be an easy one, but according to new head coach Anil Kumble, being boring is key to bowling in Test cricket.
“In the bowling department, we will be focusing on consistent lengths and being boring. That’s what we need to do when playing Test cricket.”
The Indians have many selection dilemmas and one of them is the opening slots. India are expected to go with the pair of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan with the impressive KL Rahul carrying the drinks. Cheteshwar Pujara should retain his number three spot ahead of captain Virat Kohli who will be looking to continue his impressive batting run at number four. Ajinkya Rahane should bat at number five to add strength to the formidable Indian batting line up. The biggest headache the Indian selectors will seemingly face is deciding between batsman Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Stuart Binny who can add to the Indian’s medium-pace attack. Wriddhiman Saha is the settled glovesman batting at number seven.
The bowling attack will be led by the competitive Ravichandran Ashwin and he will likely be partnered in the spin department by either leg spinner Amit Mishra or left arm orthodox bowler Ravindra Jadeja. India are blessed with choices in the pace department with the squad comprising Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and new and upcoming Shardul Thakur.
Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahana, Rohit Sharma/ Stuart Binny, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra/Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav/Mohammed Shami
West Indies (probable)
Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder (captain), Carlos Brathwaite, Davendra Bishoo, Shannon Gabriel