Jason Holder looks to inspire Windies in Tests as India face selection headache

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Holder's West Indies take on Kohli's India.

India will look to live up to their No1 ICC ranking when they open their World Test Championship campaign against the West Indies with the first match of the two-Test series in Antigua on Thursday.

Virat Kohli and his men were in imperious form in the preceding limited-overs clashes against the West Indies and they will now hope to add the Test series to their conquests in the Caribbean after their clean sweep in the ODIs and T20s.

It has been quite some time since both teams featured in the five-day format with India’s last assignment coming nearly eight months ago in Australia while Windies’ most recent Test battle came against England at the start of the year.

Hosts take confidence from England win

It might be six months since it happened but Jason Holder and his men will not be short of confidence for the two-match series against India after their memorable win over England at home in February.

It was only the third Test series win for West Indies in over five years and they remain very much a work in progress under the captaincy of Holder. Things are, however, starting to look more promising for the Windies with the emergence of a potent pace unit comprising of Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach.

The Windies skipper himself has been an inspirational figure with the star all-rounder averaging 51.36 and 13.35 with the bat and ball respectively in the format since the turn of 2018.

The hosts showed tremendous fighting spirit in their triumph over England despite their relative inexperience and they won’t be overawed by an opposition they have now failed to beat for 17 years in the Test format.

Holder was brilliant in West Indies' 2-1 win over England.

Holder was brilliant in West Indies’ 2-1 win over England.

Selection conundrum for India

Kohli and the Indian team management have multiple selection headaches ahead of the opening Test but none more so than in the batting department. Question marks hang over who will open the batting for the visitors as well as the composition of the middle-order where Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari are all vying for a place.

Rohit and Vihari could also be in contention to open the innings for India although Mayank Agarwal partnering KL Rahul at the top looks the most likely combination.

Rahane is the batsman under the most pressure to perform with the India vice-captain yet to score a Test century since August, 2017 while Rohit is looking to consolidate a spot in the squad after being given another call-up.

Vihari, meanwhile, has been in good form in India A’s shadow tour of the West Indies and the Hyderabad batsman should get a look-in.

The spotlight will be on Rahane for India.

The spotlight will be on Rahane for India.

Pant or Saha?

While the make-up of India’s batting order is unclear, they also need to pick one of Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha.

Chief selector MSK Prasad had declared before the start of the tour that Pant was being groomed as the long-term wicket-keeper across all three formats and the youngster remains the only India wicketkeeper to register overseas Tests tons in Australia and England.

However, there is Saha’s experience to be considered with the Bengal man making a return to the Test setup after spending nearly 18 months on the sidelines with an injury.

The 34-year-old warmed up for the Test series with two half-centuries against West Indies A recently and it will be tough to deny him a spot in the playing XI after what has been an excruciating wait.

Pant has scored overseas tons in England and Australia.

Pant has scored overseas tons in England and Australia.

LIKELY XIs

West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamarh Brooks, Jason Holder (c), Shane Dowrich (wk), Rahkeem Cornwall, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach.

India: Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami.

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