A valuable 120 Championship points are on offer for the two sides who will both be itching to make a winning start on their return to the Test format after an extended period of limited-overs cricket.
The first Test will be the 97th such meeting between the two countries, who first met in the format all the way back in 1948. As the West Indies and India prepare to do battle, we take a look at some of the remarkable numbers and statistics behind their past Test meetings.
1971 – The year India managed to record its maiden Test series win on Caribbean soil. Led by Ajit Wadekar, the visitors managed to win the five-match series 1-0 after registering a seven-wicket win in the second Test in the Port of Spain.
200 – The runs scored by India skipper Virat Kohli in his only previous appearance in Antigua (2016). It was the first time that an Indian captain had registered an overseas double ton in Test cricket.
17 – The number of years which have elapsed since the West Indies last beat India in a Test series. The hosts beat India 2-1 in 2002 and have since gone on to taste seven series losses in a row against the opposition.
2016 – The year the West Indies recorded its biggest Test loss on home soil. It came against India in Antigua with the hosts capitulating by an innings and 92 runs.
1 – Number of dismissals required by Jasprit Bumrah to breach the 50-wicket barrier in Test cricket. The pacer has played 10 Tests so far and will become the third quickest Indian bowler in history to bring up a half-century of wickets if he attains the feat in Antigua. Ravichandran Ashwin (nine) and Anil Kumble (10) are the Indian bowlers to have done it in fewer matches.
6 – The number of wickets required by India pacer Mohammed Shami to complete 150 Test dismissals. He has so far picked up 144 wickets in 40 appearances at an average of 29.54.
774 – The number of runs scored by Sunil Gavaskar in his debut Test series against the West Indies in 1970-71. The opener registered four tons in the five-match series and his tally is the highest recorded by any Indian batsman in a Test series against the Windies. Only Sir Everton Meekes of the West Indies has scored more runs (779) in a Test series between the two sides.
7 – The number of wickets required by West Indies skipper Jason Holder to make it a century of Test dismissals. Holder has so far picked up 93 wickets in 37 Tests while also chipping in with 1,783 runs with the bat.
Should he pick up seven wickets in the upcoming Test series, Holder will become the fourth fastest all-rounder in Test history to claim 100 wickets while also scoring at least 1,000 runs. Irfan Pathan of India remains the fastest to attain the feat and got to the mark in just 29 Tests.
7-83 – Ravichandran Ashwin’s figures with the ball in the second innings of the 2016 Antigua Test against the Windies. Those are the third-best figures recorded by any Indian spinner in Tests outside Asia.
It came in a match where Ashwin slammed a ton with the bat as well, making him only the third all-rounder in Test history to register a ton and pick up a seven-wicket haul in the same match.
Australia are set to drop opener Cameron Bancroft for Marcus Harris in the third Ashes Test against England at Headingley that gets underway on Thursday.
Harris is set to be one of three changes to the Australia playing XI from the drawn Lord’s Test according to report by the Daily Telegraph. Marnus Labuschagne will replace the concussed Steve Smith for the clash while pacer James Pattinson is set to make a return at the expense of Peter Siddle.
Bancroft has struggled in the two Ashes Tests so far along with his opening partner David Warner with the pair aggregating the mere 62 runs between themselves. Bancroft himself has accounted for just 44 runs with the right-hander yet to cross the 20-run mark in any of his innings in the series.
He will be replaced by Harris who finished as the top run-getter in the Sheffield Shield 2018-19 season with nearly 1,200 runs to his name and has made six Test appearances for Australia previously.
Harris’ batting average in those six clashes is 32.70 with the left-hander managing to register two half-centuries in the process.
Meanwhile, Labuschagne was already expected to keep his spot in the side following his gritty knock of 59 in the second innings at Lord’s after becoming the first official concussion substitute in Test cricket.
Australia are set to go in with a three-man pace attack at Leeds with Pattinson set to partner Pat Cummins with the new-ball once again. Josh Hazlewood is expected to retain his place from the second Test while Mitchell Starc’s wait to get an outing in the series is set to be prolonged.
Australia lead the five-match series by 1-0 and need to register just one win in the three remaining Tests to retain the historic urn.
We all thought the idea was to promote Test cricket and facilitate the proliferation of the red-ball cricket. But the new Test Championship points system has ended up putting greater value on shorter Test series rather than longer, more grueling encounters.
The points system in place provides 120 points for each series, irrespective of the number of matches in it. All teams play three home and three away series in the current cycle leading up to the final in 2021. The idea behind it is that since all teams don’t play the same number of Tests, those who play more – like India, England and Australia – should not automatically get more points.
However, in order to avoid such a discrepancy, the current system has greatly undermined five-Test series. One win in a two-Test series is worth 60 points while in a five-match series, a team will have to win three Tests to better that since each win in that series is only worth 24 points.
While five-Test series are driven mainly by commercial considerations, it is the ultimate test of a red-ball team. But it does not make much sense now from a cricketing point of view.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation. If a team plays two five-match series, it stands to gain a maximum of 240 points. But to reach there, it needs to win 10 Tests. Another team can accrue the same number of points by winning just four matches in two two-Test series.
On Thursday, three crucial Tests will be played across the world. The third Ashes Test in Leeds is finely poised with Australia leading 1-0. India begin their Test Championship against a dangerous Caribbean team during a two-match series which kicks off in Antigua. New Zealand will aim to level the two-Test series against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Oval.
Although number of matches are different, all series carry equal points (120).— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) July 31, 2019
Pakistan winning a two-match series 2-0 will be as good as England winning a series 5-0 but, on the flip side, losing a series 0-2 will be as bad as 0-5. pic.twitter.com/pdfHZ3Zz0h
If Sri Lanka win the second Test against New Zealand, they will have a total 120 points. Australia will have fewer points than Sri Lanka even if they beat England 4-0 in the Ashes.
If the current points system remains well into the future, teams that play mainly two and three-Test series will be in a much better position to last the distance in a Test Championship cycle and fight for a spot in the final simply because it will be easier on the bodies of players, especially fast bowlers.
Inversely, teams that play more five-Test series will have to put in a lot more effort for not enough points and that can hurt them in the race to the title clash. A points system that has been created to fit existing arrangements will most likely end up hurting teams that play more Test cricket.