Antigua, Aug 21 : Having won each of the completed limited-overs fixtures, India will look to begin their ICC World Test Championship campaign positively against West Indies in the first Test at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Thursday. The poor showing in the one-day internationals and Twenty20 Internationals notwithstanding, West Indies will go into the first Test with some sense of confidence, which will stem from their series victory over England at home earlier this year.
Key to the hosts' chances will be form of captain Jason Holder, who was recently declared the Men's Test Player of the Year in the annual Cricket West Indies awards. Since January 2018, the all-rounder has accumulated 565 runs at 51.36 while also picking up 40 wickets at 13.35. Holder will be keen to continue setting the benchmark for his players, not just in the Tests against India, but throughout their WTC run, an ICC report on Wednesday said. India, on the other side, will rely on experience to kick-start their campaign. No.1 on MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings, they will look to reinforce their position at the top of the standings.
Virat Kohli, who has Steve Smith closing in on him in the batting rankings, will also be keen to maintain the distance between himself and the contenders for the No.1 spot. The India skipper scored a double hundred in Antigua in 2016. Test specialists like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Ashwin will be on the international circuit after more than seven months; India played their only Test this year in January – the last of four Tests in Australia. While Pujara was named Player of the Series as India won their maiden series Down Under, Rahane's form has been on the wane. The Indian vice-captain's last century came in August 2017, and with Rohit Sharma waiting in the flanks, Rahane will be keen to make amends. Ashwin, the off-spinner, will be raring to return to Sir Viv Richards Stadium.
He picked up seven wickets, all in one innings, and also scored a century there in 2016. India and Windies last locked horns in whites in October 2018 at Hyderabad, where India pranced to a comprehensive 10-wicket victory. While Roston Chase made an impressive century in the first innings, it was Umesh Yadav who stole the show in that game. The right-arm pacer returned 10 wickets in a Player of the Match performance, taking India to a 2-0 sweep of the series.
Other notable efforts were Prithvi Shaw's 70, Rishabh Pant's 92 and Jason Holder's five-wicket haul. Jason Holder said, "This is a fresh group, different faces coming into the Test squad. The first series we had this year was a success. I know the guys would be ready to go against India here in this second series of the year." Virat Kohli said, "The games are going to be much more competitive and it brings a lot of purpose to the Test matches you play. World Test Championship is the right move and at the absolute right time."UNI