Contests between India and West Indies haven’t generated much interest among cricket lovers in recent times. But, things are different things time around – and for a specific reason. This, after all, will be the last Test series of the great Sachin Tendulkar. Even though Tendulkar hasn’t been anywhere close to his best over the last couple of seasons, the hopes of Tendulkar doing well will be there, for one final time when the Test series kicks off on Wednesday. If Tendulkar fans are looking for encouraging signs, they got one when the Mumbai batsman guided his Ranji team to victory over Haryana. Could he walk away from Test cricket on a high too? Time will tell.
Keeping the Tendulkar mania aside, it must be remembered that a Test series is being played between two sides – although it is a given that the same might never have taken place had Tendulkar not decided to call it quits. The series will be particularly important for youngsters in the side, who are looking to establish themselves. The name of another Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma is one that instantly comes to mind, especially after his marvellous batsmanship in the one-day series against Australia. Sharma has waited a long time for this opportunity. It will be interesting to see whether he will open the batting with Shikhar Dhawan, like in ODIs.
The series will be extremely critical for a few others, who are basically fringe selections. Among the batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane will have to make a serious impression if he wants to be a permanent member of the side. He has only played one Test till date, so he must get fair opportunities. Murali Vijay will also need to deliver consistently. He has played some good knocks in recent times, but India will be tempted try the Dhawan-Rohit combination at the top if Vijay fails.
Bowling is a definite worry for India, just like it has been in the one-day matches. Ishant Sharma is their most experienced bowler, but the way he has performed recently, he has been plain lucky to have retained his place in the side. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done reasonably well in one- day cricket, getting the ball do move and troubling batsmen, but whether he can prove to be an equally potent force in the five-day game is yet to be ascertained. He has only featured in four Tests, so it is too early to draw a conclusion.
Mohammed Shami was impressive in the one-dayers, especially when the ball was moving around. His shortcomings though came to the fore when the ball got older. Shami will be tested for sure in the longer version of the game. The return of Umesh Yadav is good news for India, but he will have to demonstrate his fitness and form in the series. Ever since Harbhajan Singh has run out of favour, India have struggled in the spin department. Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha did well against the Windies the last time round. This time, they have Amit Mishra as well. Their showings could end up being crucial to India’s cause.
--By A Cricket Analyst