Team India is all set to start its much-awaited World Test Championship campaign with the first Test against West Indies in Antigua on August 22.
After whitewashing the hosts 3-0 in the shortest format, the Men in Blue clinched the three-match ODI series by a margin of 2-0. A win in the two-match Test series will be the first time that India would have won across all formats on Caribbean soil.
For the Test series opener, Team India is likely to open with the Karnataka duo of Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul. With Prithvi Shaw not being a part of the squad, the No. 1 Test side doesn’t have many options at the top-order and thus Rahul is expected to partner Agarwal, who has certainly sealed one of the opening slots with the scores of 76, 42 and 77 in India’s maiden Test series triumph Down Under earlier this year.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who fined tuned preparations for this series with a solid ton in the drawn three-day tour game against West Indies A, will bat at the pivotal No. 3 position followed by captain Virat Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.
There might be a competition between Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari for the No. 6 slot, but it is likely that the former will get the nod considering his recent form and monumental performances at the World Cup.
For his outstanding batting record in overseas conditions, Rishabh Pant is a certain starter as wicketkeeper batsman ahead of the experienced Wriddhiman Saha.
Wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav could pip the seasoned campaigners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the playing XI for the first Test. Kuldeep had taken a five-wicket haul in India’s last Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January this year. Moreover, Kuldeep comfortably outbowled Ashwin and Jadeja in the warm-up fixture against West Indies ‘A’.
Given their heroics as a potent pace troika last season, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami are certain to feature in the team for the Antigua Test.
COC Predicted Team playing XI for the first Test:
Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (WK), Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami.