ANTIGUA, July 20: A confident India, with a new coach at the helm, will seek to record a third consecutive Test series triumph on the Caribbean soil when the Virat Kohli-led side clashes with an inexperienced West Indies in the first Test match, here from tomorrow.
The Test will herald a new chapter in Indian cricket history as the team will take the field for the first time under new coach Anil Kumble�s guidance.
More than three weeks have passed since the legendary leg-spinner assumed charge of the squad. Over this period, he has led the team through a preparatory camp and overseen two practice matches in St. Kitts last week.
He has introduced a new bonding spirit in the dressing room, and lifted morale through numerous group activities, thus ensuring a seamless transition from Ravi Shastri�s tenure as team director.
As such the focus now completely shifts to the field, where the Indian players will try to put in action the plans laid out by their new coach. In doing so, skipper Virat Kohli will aim to complete a hat trick of Test series wins in the Caribbean, after Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni led their sides to victory in 2007 and 2011, respectively.
Also, Kohli will be hoping to win a third successive Test series, after beating Sri Lanka 2-1 away and South Africa 3-0 at home, both last year.
It will be easier said than done though. For, the slow pitches in the West Indies will test his team�s resolve. The wickets laid out in St. Kitts for the two practice matches had good bounce, but slow turn for the spinners and very little by way of movement for the pacers.
It is expected to be a continuing trend though the four-Test series, although the pitch for this first Test seemed to throw up a surprise.
With two days to go, there were a green sprinkling of grass on the surface. It seemed nothing more than patches left to hold the pitch together for five days, and yet it could alter the Indian think-tank�s plans regarding the first-choice eleven. While 13 players had participated in each of the two tour matches, the composition used in both games indicated a five-bowler approach for the Tests.
Various members of the squad, as well as support staff, have pointed out in the build-up that even a little grass would not alter the slow nature of the wickets. Thus, it can be expected that Amit Mishra will be picked ahead of Stuart Binny, should Kohli opt for five bowlers.
At the same time, it remains to be seen who will partner Ishant Sharma, a fit-again Mohammad Shami, or Umesh Yadav, who did well against both Sri Lanka and South Africa in Shami�s absence.
Selecting five bowlers also clears up the way for Rohit Sharma to be benched again, with the Mumbai batsman sitting out of the second warm-up match previously as well.
He was among five players who showed up for optional practice two days before the Test, the others being Binny, Mishra, Cheteshwar Pujara and KL Rahul. In a way, these are the names vying for two spots in the playing eleven.
While Mishra should edge out both Rohit and Binny, it will be a huge surprise if the team management considers replacing Pujara with Rahul at number three. A strong indicator of this is also seen in pairing of the two batsmen during net sessions, a new practice set in place by the new coaching regime.
While Pujara-Rahul were practicing together, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were busy in the adjacent nets. � PTI
India: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd Shami, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.
West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Leon Johnson, Shane Dowrich (wk), Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins.
Match starts at: 7.30 pm IST