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1st Test: Jaiswal all set for debut as India enter transition phase, face West Indies challenge (preview)

The Rohit Sharma-led India will begin their World Test Championship (WTC) 2025 cycle and enter the transition phase in red-ball cricket with young Yashasvi Jaiswal all set to make his debut for the country as the team faces a wounded West Indies in the two-Test series, beginning here on Wednesday.

While India will be playing their first Test after their WTC Final loss against Australia, West Indies are coming off a shocking elimination from the ODI World Cup Qualifiers. There are plenty of challenges for both sides and they will be eager to prove themselves.

India are tipped to name Jaiswal in the XI, off the back of a prolific stretch in domestic cricket in all three formats. Averaging over 80 in his first 26 First Class innings, Jaiswal made 265 in the second innings of the Duleep Trophy Final last year, also enjoying a strong year of white-ball cricket, hitting 625 runs in the 2023 IPL, at an average of 48 and a strike rate of 163.61.

The left-handed batter was given his first taste of senior international cricket as a stand-by squad member for India’s World Test Championship 2023 Final tilt against Australia and now he looks all set for his debut.

Veteran Cheteshwar Pujara’s ouster from the team has created a slot at No.3. and Jaiswal is likely to bat at that position. However, the talented Mumbai batter usually plays as an opener, so it will be interesting to see whether Shubhman Gill drops down to No 3. or continue batting at the top with captain Rohit Sharma.

During the two-match series, eyes will be on the seniors Rohit, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane, as they move closer to the end of their careers than the middle.

While Rohit has been good with the bat in Test cricket, his captaincy has been under severe criticism by former cricketers. A solid performance in the Caribbean with both and captain with him that much-needed confidence in the ODI World Cup year.

On the other hand, former skipper Kohli also struggled with his batting form in Test cricket in the last few matches, averaging below 30. The 34-year-old will look to re-discover his mojo to serve Indian cricket for a longer duration.

Meanwhile, Rahane, who has made the most of a second chance of his own and retained his spot after a strong showing in the WTC Final with his scores of 89 and 46 while batting at No.5, will look to continue his good work.

The 35-year-old is also ready to deputise Rohit Sharma once again having been relieved of his role and spot in the team throughout parts of 2021 and 2022.

It will be also interesting to see whether Srikar Bharat retains his place as a wicketkeeper batter in the playing XI or India give debut to Ishan Kishan. While Bharat is a better option with the gloves, his batting doesn’t give that confidence while Kishan brings that aggressive intent with his bat.

On the bowling side too, there is an opening for a different face to make a difference, with quick Mohammed Shami requesting to be rested for the Caribbean series.

With India moving on from Ishant Sharma, uncertainty over Jasprit Bumrah’s ambition in Test cricket and Umesh Yadav being either injured or dropped, the Rahul Dravid-coached side is also going for a transition in the bowling dept.

India’s pace attack on the Test tour of the West Indies carries a total experience of 88 Test wickets between them with Mohammed Siraj, the leader of the pack, having 52. So, India may opt for multiple spin options in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel while the likes of Shardul Thakur, Mukesh Kumar and Jaydev Unadkat could squeeze into the side to join Siraj in a shuffled pace attack.

On the other hand, despite their failure to qualify for the ODI World Cup, West Indies are a potent threat at home. They have beaten England in successive home series, drawn with Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but have been dominated by India and South Africa.

West Indies have that quality in their pace attack, which can rattle Indian batters. Kemar Roach is among the top-five wicket-takers for West Indies, Shannon Gabriel is headed towards the top 10, the allrounder Jason Holder averages under 30 with the ball, and Alzarri Joseph is nearing his prime.

If West Indies prepare a pace-friendly pitch and manage to take India’s spinners out of the equation, they can put visitors in trouble in the series. And hosts will need their batters to step up and put on a big total on the board.

Squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ajinkya Rahane (VC), KS Bharat (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Navdeep Saini.

West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (C), Jermaine Blackwood (VC), Joshua Da Silva (wk), Alick Athanaze, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Kirk McKenzie, Jomel Warrican.

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