With the two-match series against the West Indies, India will begin their campaign in the World Test Championship. Team India should start as favourites against the West Indies for the Antigua Test that begins on Thursday but there will be some curiosity over the playing XI that steps on the field at North Sound.
The question that Virat Kohli and the reappointed head coach Ravi Shastri have to answer is whether to go in with six batsmen or five along with a wicketkeeper.
Six batsmen would mean, India will have to sacrifice one specialist bowler, which, in all likelihood, would be a spinner. Also, who would be that sixth batsman – Rohit Sharma or Hanuma Vihari?
Former India opener Virender Sehwag backs Rohit Sharma to take that slot at No.6 ahead of Vihari, who was part of the Indian team that won a historic Test series in Australia earlier this year.
“India will have a look at the wicket and if it is good for batting, they (India) can pick five batsmen with a wicketkeeper and have five bowlers. It’s the World Test Championship, so winning is more important than to pay for a draw,” Sehwag told India Today during the launch of a new app ‘The Selector’.
“Who played at no. 6 in the last series? Four is Virat, five is Rahane and six could be Hanuma Vihari because he can bowl a few overs too. But if you ask me, I will pick Rohit Sharma because he has the ability to score big hits. If there comes a stage where you are closing in on declaration, he can score those quick runs,” reckons the former India opener with an experience of 104 Tests under his belt.
India would also play three specialist fast bowlers but may have limit their luxury to just one specialist spinner. R Ashwin, who picked 17 wickets in 2016 when India last toured West Indies for a Test series, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja are the three options but only one could find a place in the playing XI if the team goes in with six specialist batsmen.
“I would prefer to play the best available spinner and I believe Ashwin is our best spinner ahead of Kuldeep. He (Ashwin) may soon break Harbhajan’s record of 417 wickets in Test cricket. If he is the best, he should play and in West Indies you are likely to get wickets similar to what you get in India. We all know how well he has bowled in India,” Sehwag noted.
Sehwag, who played the 2006 Test series in the Caribbean, also feels that India is a far superior team than the Windies and India should come back home with a clean sweep.
“The kind of team that West Indies have, India should win, irrespective of whether they play with five batsmen or six. India are so strong that they can win the two-match series 3-0.”
“You win there (in West Indies) come back to India and then play here again. So if you have the points that will count. Wicket will play an important role and if you are playing with six batsmen then you would want to bat just once and get West Indies out twice.