New Delhi, July 20: As Team India is gearing up to play the opening Test match against West Indies at Sir Vivian Richards stadium, skipper Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble are facing a challenging task in front of them.
Charting out the final Playing XI for the first Test match would be giving sleepless nights to the duo of Kumble and Kohli.
A dominant Team India might be the favourites in the four-Test series but home conditions and better understanding of the pitch make West Indies a tough opponent.
Also, Team India have never played at this venue, thus it won't be easy for the visitors to access the conditions and this could add to the team's cup of woes. (Focus is on changing batsmen's mindset from T20 to Test: Anil Kumble)
India's practice session over last two days hint that the team has figured out final 13 players. But picking up final 11 would still be a challenging task for the skipper.
Here is why Kohli and Kumble face a major headache:
To go with 7-4 or 6-5 playing combination:
Virat Kohli, during India's tour of Sri Lanka, played with 6 batsmen and 5 bowlers. He has consistenly backed this combination thusr there won't be any surprises if the skipper goes with it again.
But, during practice matches the wickets were on the slower side. Thus, it won't be surprising if Kohli decides to go with an extra batsman. (Strict or lenient coach? Smiling Anil Kumble answers fan's question)
If India plays 5 bowlers then, Kohli faces a tough task of whether to play with three pacers and two spinners or two fast bowlers and three spinners.
In case of 6-5 combination:
As the pitch at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium is on the slower side, thus it will be interesting to see if Kohli comes up with 3 spinners and 2 pacers or vice versa.
If India plays 3 spinners then frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will be backed by Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra and pace battery will be powered by Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami.
And if India goes with 3 pacers and two spinners, then either Ravindra Jadeja or Amit Mishra will have to sit outside. While pacers Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be fighting for the two spots in the pace department.
In case of 7-4 combination:
In case the team management decides to play an extra batsman i.e. goes with 7-4 formula, then Kohli also has an option in all-rounder Stuart Binny. Binny could come in handy as a medium pacer and a lower order batsman, thus giving an option to play two regular pacers and two spinners.
If skipper leaves the option of playing Binny, then it will be interesting to see which two pacers and spinners will feature in the playing XI.
Therefore, biggest challenge for skipper Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble would be finalising the bowling combination.
Team India has taken three regular openers on the tour of West Indies in Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul.
With Vijay being an automatic first choice, it will be interesting to see whom skipper Kohli chooses as his partner. Dhawan has been inconsistent so far in Test cricket while Rahul has impressed with his performances in the last one year.
During practice matches, KL Rahul slammed fifties in both the warm-up games while Shikhar scored a half-century in the first game but failed in the second tour match.
Rahul was also in tremendous form during IPL and India's tour of Zimbabwe.
Pujara or Rahul at No. 3?
Cheteshwar Pujara emerged as the best batsman at No. 3 for India but if Shikhar Dhawan gets to open with Murali Vijay, then the Saurashtra batsman could face a competition in KL Rahul. As practice sessions hint that Rohit Sharma is unlikely to get a chance in the first Test thus he's no more in the race for No. 3.
In case of 6 batsmen, Kohli will come in to bat at No. 4 followed by Rahane at No. 5 followed by Wriddhiman Saha at No. 6.
Who'll be the 7th batsman?
Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Stuart Binny are the contenders for that extra batsman, if Team India opts to play an extra batsman considering the pitch conditions.