Playing Ishan Kishan ahead of KS Bharat and featuring two spinners in the XI are the two key options that Team India is weighing up two days ahead of their first Test against the West Indies at Roseau, Dominica.
It is understood that following KS Bharat’s unconvincing display with the bat in the five Tests he has started this year, India’s team management is keen on handing a debut to Kishan. But his keeping skill against spinners seems to be the lone concern that is still keeping Bharat in the reckoning with a final call expected on match eve.
India are kick-starting their next cycle of the World Test Championship with a two-match Test series in the Caribbean, to be played in Roseau and Port of Spain. Having already pressed the transition button by dropping Cheteshwar Pujara, India are weighing up their options for the two Tests as they are keen to get off the block in the WTC points table. With Yashasvi Jaiswal all set to make his debut at No 3, India are likely to make three more changes to the XI that started against Australia at the Oval.
Having come under fire for failing to read the conditions at the Oval, where they controversially dropped off-spinner R Ashwin to accommodate four quicks, India are treading cautiously this time. Unlike other venues in the Caribbean, where the fast bowlers have started to enjoy the pitches again in the region, the Windsor Park is known to be on the slower side and in the five Tests it has hosted – the last being in 2017 – the spinners have enjoyed good success. Shane Shillingford, Michael Clarke, Devendra Bishoo, Yasir Shah have five-wicket hauls to their names and the likes of Narsingh Deonarine, Nathan Lyon, Harbhajan Singh, Roston Chase have made notable contributions in first innings as well as the second.
And apart from the sub-continent, the only other place India haven’t hesitated to play two spinners is the Caribbean. Although the last time they toured in 2019, India played a four prone attack (three pacers & a spinner) in a huge departure from their five-bowlers formula, with experience missing in the fast-bowling unit, India are tempted to play both Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
During the 2016 tour, India had preferred Ashwin over Jadeja as their first-choice spinner with even leg-spinner Amit Mishra starting ahead of the latter in the first two Tests. And in the end, Ashwin ended up walking away with Man of the Series award, as he scored a century as well.
It is understood that during the selection meeting to pick the squad, Kishan’s name was discussed as first-choice and there was a toss-up for the second keeper slot between Bharat and Upendra Yadav. Although the selectors eventually retained Bharat, his failures with the bat mean Kishan is being looked at with genuine interest. The only aspect that is weighing against Kishan is, he is not even Jharkhand’s first-choice wicketkeeper in Ranji Trophy, for whom he primarily plays as a batsman. With two spinners likely to play there are concerns as to how he will come up against Ashwin and Jadeja.
With India likely to play only five specialist batsmen, they need runs from the lower-order and Kishan with his aggressive game is capable of playing game-changing innings. As far as Bharat goes, in the five Tests he has played, his batting hasn’t been up to the expected levels and he has been all at sea when it comes to facing fast bowlers.
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