Caribbean challenge awaits India

Dhawan-led team, filled with youngsters, takes on host in series opener
 Shikhar Dhawan
Shikhar Dhawan

TRINIDAD: India’s fringe players will get valuable game time when the experienced Shikhar Dhawan leads the team in the three-match ODI series against the West Indies, beginning here on Friday.

The 36-year-old Dhawan, who plays only the 50-over format in international cricket, will lead India for the second time in his career as regular captain Rohit Sharma has been rested for the series. Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Virat Kohli have also been rested.

It will be interesting to see who opens alongside Dhawan in the first match. Shubman Gill, who has been brought back into the ODI team, will form a left-right combination with Dhawan, but could face stiff challenge from Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad.

The team management will have a hard time picking the middle-order. The in-form Deepak Hooda is expected to bat at No.3 while Suryakumar Yadav is a certainty in the playing eleven, leaving the think-tank to choose one among Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson.

Pressure will be on Shreyas, who was once again found wanting against the short ball on the England tour. In the absence of Hardik, Shardul Thakur is the pace-bowling all-rounder option for India. The pitches here tend to aid spinners, so leggie Yuzvendra Chahal is likely to play all three matches along with left-arm orthodox bowler Ravindra Jadeja. The third spin option in the squad is Axar Patel.

Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh, who could not play the ODIs in England due to an abdominal strain, could make his 50-over debut on Friday. Prasidh Krishna and Mohammed Siraj are expected to start as the two frontline fast bowlers for the visitor.

Meanwhile, West Indies is smarting from its 0-3 loss at home in the ODIs against Bangladesh. All-rounder Jason Holder has made a comeback and will provide the much needed balance to the team led by wicketkeeper-batter Nicholas Pooran.

The Caribbean side would look to improve upon one crucial aspect – completing its 50-over batting quota. Since the 2019 World Cup, West Indies has managed to bat the full 50 overs just six times in 39 innings and that should be a concern.

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