Virat Kohli against Jason Holder and other key battles that could decide the India-West Indies series

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A battle of two skippers: Virat Kohli (l) and Jason Holder.

After all the excitement of the Asia Cup, the focus shifts to red-ball cricket once again with India set to take on the West Indies in a two-Test series.

The series will see the No1 and No8 ranked Tests outfits in the world lock horns in what looks like a terrible mismatch on paper.

However, despite West Indies’ lowly Test ranking, they are clearly a team on the up and have displayed some encouraging signs in their last two series.

As the two sides get ready to do battle in the first Test at Rajkot which gets underway on Thursday, we take a look at the key battles that could prove decisive in the series.

KL RAHUL V SHANNON GABRIEL

It has been quite a year for KL Rahul with his limited-overs performance being in stark contrast to his displays in the Test arena.

Having ended 2017 strongly with an excellent display at home against Sri Lanka, Rahul’s start to 2018 in the Test format was a forgettable one with some unconvincing displays against the moving ball in South Africa.

He roared back into form with a stupendous IPL campaign for Kings XI Punjab but failed to carry it over in the Test series in England where, once again, his susceptibility against the moving ball was exposed.

He did end the series with a fine 149 at the Oval and with the comfort of playing in home conditions, he will be eager to establish himself as India’s first-choice opener following the omissions of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay.

He will, however, have to contend with the heavy ball of Shannon Gabriel. The West Indies pacer had an excellent 2017 where he picked up 34 wickets in nine Tests and has carried that form into the current year. The 30-year-old showed his prowess in the home series against Sri Lanka where he picked up a record match-haul of 13 wickets, the joint-most by any West Indies bowler in a single Test.

He will be looking to work his magic with the new ball and will be one of the biggest threats for India’s batsmen.

The test at the top of the innings: Rahul v Gabriel.

The test at the top of the innings: Rahul v Gabriel.

DEVENDRA BISHOO V CHETESHWAR PUJARA

West Indies’ spin hopes in the subcontinent will rest primarily on the shoulders of Devendra Bishoo. The 32-year-old leg spinner has been a constant in the Windies through all their upheavals over the years and brings with him plenty of experience.

The senior spinner will be in business once the pitches in India start to wear down and how well he holds up one end could be decisive to West Indies’ hopes for the series.

He will be keen to make amends for his poor record on Indian pitches where he has only been able to muster seven wickets in three Tests at an average greater than 62.

While India’s batsmen have traditionally been strong players of spin, Cheteshwar Pujara has stood out in recent times with his excellent use of the feet against spinners.

The top-order stalwart loves playing the big innings, especially at home, and will be another Indian batsman who will be looking to bounce back after a less than satisfactory tour of England.

If he can assert his supremacy over Bishoo early on, West Indies could be in for a tough time.

A battle of attrition: Pujara v Bishoo.

A battle of attrition: Pujara v Bishoo.

VIRAT KOHLI V JASON HOLDER

The series will see two skippers who are very much the talismans of their respective teams go head-to-head in more ways than one.

Virat Kohli is currently at the top of his Test game as his No1 ranking in the format proves. The India skipper might have seen his side fall to a 4-1 defeat in the Test series in England but he returned from the tour with his individual stock at an all-time high. The 29-year-old banished his painful memories from the 2014 tour of England by smashing a whopping 593 runs in the five Tests to end up as the top-scorer from either side.

He will be raring to go once again after being given a well-deserved rest during the Asia Cup but will have his task cut out against his West Indies counterpart. Holder’s bowling numbers do not scream ‘elite pacer’ by any reckoning but he has shown a knack of rising to the occasion for his West Indies team.

He troubled Kohli with his shorter-deliveries during the ODI series in the Caribbean in 2017 and will be looking to repeat that trick again in the subcontinent.

Holder has troubled Kohli in the past with his bouncers.

Holder has troubled Kohli in the past with his bouncers.

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