NEW DELHI: India and the West Indies are set to commence a two-Test series at the picturesque Windsor Park Stadium in Dominica on Wednesday. The West Indies, reeling from the disappointment of failing to qualify for the upcoming World Cup, will be hoping to find solace in a formidable performance against their Indian counterparts.
It has been 21 long years since the West Indies last secured a Test victory over India, and they face a stern challenge to break that streak.
The series, which concludes in Trinidad next week, holds special significance as it marks the beginning of the next two-year World Test Championship cycle, leading up to the final in 2025.
India, having suffered defeat in the inaugural World Test Championship final against New Zealand in 2021 and a recent loss to Australia in the 2023 decider, will be determined to make a strong comeback.
The team, led by Rohit Sharma, is expected to make a few changes from the side that faced Australia, with veteran Cheteshwar Pujara dropped and paceman Mohammed Shami rested. This presents an opportunity for the uncapped
or Ruturaj Gaikwad to stake their claim for the number three batting position. Additionally, the selection dilemma in the fast bowling department lies between Jaydev Unadkat and Navdeep Saini.
Ravichandran Ashwin, the experienced spinning all-rounder, is set to play a crucial role against the West Indies. With an impressive record of 60 wickets in 11 Tests against them, coupled with four centuries at an average of over 50, Ashwin will be a key player for the Indian team.
The return of Ajinkya Rahane, the vice-captain, adds further strength to India’s batting lineup after his noteworthy performances against Australia.
The West Indies, while disappointed by their World Cup qualifying failure, hold hopes for their 24-year-old batsman Alick Athanaze, who is expected to make his Test debut in place of the injured Kyle Mayers.
However, the responsibility of containing India’s formidable batting order will primarily rest on the shoulders of all-rounder Jason Holder and fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, who both featured in the team’s disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign.
Kemar Roach, the senior pacer, will lead the West Indies’ bowling attack. The decision to include either two specialist spinners, Jomel Warrican and the recalled Rahkeem Cornwall, or rely on the pace of Shannon Gabriel will depend on the conditions of the pitch.
While Windsor Park historically offers little assistance to fast bowlers, the dynamics may change as this will be the venue’s first Test since Pakistan’s historic series win in 2017.
Although the West Indies enter the series as underdogs, their performance mentor and batting legend, Brian Lara, remains optimistic that the team, particularly the young and inexperienced players like Athanaze and Kirk McKenzie, can display promising performances and inject a glimmer of hope in a region currently experiencing cricketing gloom.
(With inputs from AFP)