The Indian selectors, on Saturday, named a 15-man squad for the two Tests against Jason Holder’s men. Senior openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were not picked in the squad after their poor show on the tour of England. In their place, youngster Prithvi Shaw and Karnataka batsman Mayank Agarwal have been handed a run with the latter being given a maiden India call-up.
Following the squad announcement, Harbhajan took to Twitter to lash out at the Indian selectors for Rohit’s omission.
“No Rohit Sharma in Test team against West Indies. What are the selectors thinking actually? Anyone have a clue? Please let me know as I can’t digest this,” the former India off-spinner wrote.
No @ImRo45 in test team against West Indies..what r the selectors thinking actually??? Anyone have a clue ??? plz let me know as I can’t digest this— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) September 30, 2018
His tweet came after former India skipper Sourav Ganguly had a made a similar remark on Twitter.
Congratulating India for their triumph in the Asia Cup, Ganguly had written, “Great win Rohit and the team. Rohit, you were exceptional. I get surprised every time I don’t see your name in the Test team. It’s not far away.”
Great win Rohit and the team @ImRo45 ..u were exceptional...I get surprised every time I don’t see ur name in the test team ..it’s not far away ..— Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) September 29, 2018
While Rohit remains one of the best openers going around in limited-overs cricket, his record in the Test format, especially overseas, has been less than stellar.
The right-hander had featured in India’s home Test series against Sri Lanka at the end of the last year but a poor display on the tour of South Africa saw him dropped for the squad for the England series and one-off clash against Afghanistan.
The West Indies are currently placed eighth in the ICC Test rankings, just above Bangladesh. The Caribbean side are known more for their T20 flair than red-ball excellence.
And as they prepare for a two-Test series in India this week, cricket followers might expect a dominating performance by the world’s No1 team.
But looking at recent results in the longest format of the game, it is the West Indies who enter the series with form and confidence under their belt.
Jason Holder’s team have won three out of their last five Tests, lost one and drawn one. Those matches were against Sri Lanka (one win) and Bangladesh (two wins) at home but that doesn’t take anything away from their performances.
It is the same West Indies team that pulled off a Test win in 2017 in the Leeds Test in England and beat Pakistan in a home and away Test in the 2016/17 season within a six-month period.
The Windies looked in good touch against a strong Indian Board President’s XI in their warm-up match, scoring 366-7 with batsman Sunil Ambris hitting a century.
What the West Indies have is an exciting pace attack led by the burly Shannon Gabriel and which also includes captain Holder and veteran quick Kemar Roach. Add off-spinning all-rounder Roston Chase and leggie Devendra Bishoo to the group and the West Indies look a more than decent outfit.
What levels the playing field a bit is the absence of ace seamers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the Indian team. They have also dropped veteran openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, going for the untested partnership of KL Rahul and debutants Prithvi Shaw or Mayank Agarwal.
The Indians will be led by Virat Kohli who is coming from a sensational England Test tour as a batsman but a horrific one as captain after the world No1 Test team lost 4-1 when they were in clear winning position in three of the lost Tests.
There is uncertainty in the Indian ranks as they are already focusing on the Australia tour. In a short Test series, all it takes is one or two sessions to go the Windies’ way and things can unfold very quickly.
Hong Kong almost pulled off a miracle win against a strong Indian team in the Asia Cup while Afghanistan held them to a tie. The West Indies have beaten good teams home and away in the past couple of seasons. A surprise or two in India won’t be so surprising after all.
The Asia Cup is done and dusted with India crowned champions for the seventh time in their history on Friday night. With plenty of players excelling with the bat and ball, we have compiled our Best XI from the two-week tournament in the UAE.
ROHIT SHARMA (IND, captain):
The right-hander demonstrated again why he is one of the best batsmen in ODI cricket. The 31-year-old didn’t get off to the best of starts against Hong Kong but raised his game when it mattered with scores of 52, 83* and 111* against Bangladesh and Pakistan. Ended the tournament with the most sixes (13).
SHIKHAR DHAWAN (IND)
He was criticised during the Test series in England but there’s no doubting his qualities when it comes to 50 overs. Made the perfect start with century against Hong Kong before tormenting the Pakistan bowlers in the Super Four stage with another ton in their chase of 238. Made it a habit of scoring boundaries with 44 as Sharma’s 25 came a distant second.
MUSHFIQUR RAHIM (BAN)
Stole the show on the opening day with a tremendous 144 against Sri Lanka and although didn’t reach a fifty in his next two games, produced another stunning knock when the pressure was on with a 99 against Pakistan. He rated it among his five best knocks and given it saw them through to the final, it was easy to see why.
HASHMATULLAH SHAHIDI (AFG)
The 23-year-old returned to Kabul knowing he let the bat do the talking particularly in the UAE capital. The batsman isn’t one of the star names in the team but his runs tally puts his right up there. Struck three consecutive half-centuries including a 97 against Pakistan.
SHOAIB MALIK (PAK)
Regularly found himself at the helm with his team in trouble and rescued them more often than not. That resulted in some solid knocks including his match-winning unbeaten 51 when he hit four and six in consecutive balls off the last ball against Afghanistan. Went even better against India in his next outing with 78 in what was a lone battle from the 36-year-old.
MOHAMMAD SHAHZAD (AFG, wk)
DISMISSALS: FOUR (CATCHES: THREE, STUMPINGS: ONE)
The 30-year-old didn’t do much with the bat in his first three matches but came to life against Bangladesh when he hit a 53. He went even better next time against India as he made an aggressive 124, which included 11 fours and seven sixes. He was effective behind the stumps with four dismissals.
RAVINDRA JADEJA (IND)
The spinning all-rounder wasn’t originally a part of the squad but made his presence count with some eye-catching displays. Took seven scalps including four in his very first game against Bangladesh. Scored a critical 23 against Bangladesh in a tense final.
JASPRIT BUMRAH (IND)
Was the pick of the fast bowlers as he averaged two wickets per match with an economy of just 3.6 The 24-year-old picked up wickets every game and his effort is even more remarkable considering he didn’t have much time to rest after being a part of India’s Test squad for the England series.
KULDEEP YADAV (IND)
The left-arm spinner continues to go from strength to strength in white-ball cricket. Didn’t have a rest as he played all six matches. Took 10 scalps including three in the final against Bangladesh. Finished as the joint top wicket-taker.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (BAN)
One of the most consistent players for the Tigers. Took two scalps in the opener against Sri Lanka and after a blip against India, was back on track . Snared four wickets against Pakistan which paved Bangladesh’s way to the final.
RASHID KHAN (AFG)
Given his talent, it’s really no surprise to see the star spinner make this list. In each of the five games, he picked up wickets including the scalp of Ravindra Jadeja in the thrilling tie. Took advantage of the UAE conditions to trouble the batsmen. At 20, he can only get better.