West Indies host India in a two-match Test series to kick off their ICC World Test Championship 2023-25 cycle. India, who are two-time finalists of the WTC, will be aiming to kickstart the new cycle on a positive note. India are without several key players but still have the resources to cause worry for the hosts. West Indies look fresh with some influx of new players and will want to test the visitors with some raw energy. The match will be decided by the key player battles in store as the fine margins will dictate the proceedings. Here we analyse the key player battles.
Virat Kohli vs Kemar Roach
Virat Kohli will be the cynosure of all eyes when India bat versus the Windies. Since 2022, Kohli has managed one ton and a fifty from 19 innings. He has often got starts but failed to capitalise. Kohli, who is closing in on 8500 Test runs, will be tested severely by West Indies’ talisman Kemar Roach, who has claimed 260-plus wickets in Tests. Roach with his pace will look to draw Kohli forward and gain an edge, something we have seen Kohli do often of late. As per ESPNcricinfo, Kohli has scored 10 runs off Roach across four Test innings, being dismissed once. He has faced 34 deliveries and carries a strike rate of 29.41.
Yashasvi Jaiswal vs Alzarri Joseph
Rohit Sharma confirmed Yashasvi Jaiswal will be handed his India cap and will also open the innings in the first Test. Yashasvi had a dream IPL 2023 season and his red-ball heroics is also noteworthy. He has an average of 80.21 in First-class cricket. Yashasvi will look to play his natural game and go the aggressive route when needed in search of runs at the top. West Indies bowler Alzarri Joseph will be keen to ruffle Yashasvi’s feathers by bowling in the channel. Joseph, who can extract bounce, will be crucial with the new ball. The pacer has claimed 84 Test scalps at 33.30. Joseph has claimed 22 wickets of left-handed batters in Tests, averaging 45.31. Yashasvi will be keen to start well here.
Shubman Gill vs Jason Holder
Dashing Indian youngster Shubman Gill will be playing at number three with Yashasvi opening. Gill, who has the attributes of giving India the platform for a healthy score, will need to play as per the situation. He failed to impress in the WTC final against Australia, misjudging the surface and playing poor shots. Gill, who is closing in on 1000 Test runs, will need to be wary against the experienced Jason Holder, who can be nagging and wearing at the same time. Holder, who will hit the deck hard. In 31 Tests, he has claimed 92 wickets at home at an average of 23.39.
Tagenarine Chanderpaul vs Mohammed Siraj
Tagenarine Chanderpaul has had a decent start to his Test career. The 27-year-old has scored 453 runs across six Tests. Chanderpaul will look to be patient and see out the new ball. He got two scores of 80-plus in the third unofficial Test for West Indies A against Bangladesh in May-June and there also he showed a lot of patience and precision. Chanderpaul will be keen to face Mohammed Siraj, who has been impressive against openers. Across 33 innings, Siraj has dismissed left-handed batters on 22 occasions at a healthy 26.31. Meanwhile, he has dismissed the opponent team’s openers on 12 counts at 31.83. With no Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, Siraj will lead India’s pace attack and he will try to be as aggressive as possible.
Joshua Da Silva vs R Ashwin
Joshua Da Silva has played 22 Test matches for West Indies, scoring 857 runs at 27.64. He has slammed one ton and three fifties. A vital cog in West Indies’ middle order, Da Silva will have the onus to score useful runs and his approach against spin will be key. Da Silva has scored 146 runs against right-arm spinners in Tests at just 24.33. He has been dismissed six times. India’s ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will be raring to have a crack against Da Silva and get him out early to expose the tail. Ashwin, who is a veteran of 474 Test scalps, has enjoyed bowling against WI, having claimed 60 scalps. He will be hungry after being left out of the WTC Final against the Aussies.
Kraigg Brathwaite vs Jaydev Unadkat
West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite can be a massive influence for his side, being the most senior batter. A scorer of close to 5500 Test runs, Brathwaite holds the key to hand West Indies good starts alongside Chanderpaul. Brathwaite is someone with a composed and cool head. He has the ability to find the gaps and wear down bowlers with his solid defensive work. Across 56 innings, Brathwaite has scored 690 runs against left-arm pacers at a decent 46.00. He has been dismissed 15 time so far. Jaydev Unadkat, who is likely to be a part of the playing XI and open the bowling alongside Siraj, will target the WI skipper. Unadkat is vastly experienced in FC cricket and he will have his task cut out against someone with a solid pedigree.
Ajinkya Rahane vs Rahkeem Cornwall
Ajinkya Rahane had a solid return to Tests in the WTC final last month. A quality player of spin, Rahane will aim to score runs and keep himself busy at the crease. Rahane will target Rahkeem Cornwall, who will lead WI’s spin unit. Rahane has scored 1323 runs against right-arm spinners in Tests at 44.10. However, he has also been dismissed on 30 counts. Cornwall knows he will have his chances and catching Rahane off guard will be immense. In nine matches, Cornwall has claimed 34 scalps at 37.76. He has bowled 79 maidens. Cornwall has however not been impressive at home, taking just 8 scalps at a high 59.25 across four Test matches. He needs to enhance his numbers.
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