Live: IND Vs WI 1st Test | Day 1 | Session 2 | Live Scores & Commentary | 2018 Series
Holding on to the number one position despite a 1-4 loss to England, India will look to maintain their status in the ICC Test rankings when they host West Indies in a two-match series.
In the series that starts on Thursday, India will be looking to ensure they do not lose any points in a bid to maintain their top position.
India lead the table with 115 points but only stand to gain one point even with a 2-0 series win owing to the large difference in rating points with the West Indies.
On the other hand, India can slip to 108 points with an unlikely 2-0 loss and Australia could overtake them if they defeat Pakistan 2-0.
For the West Indies, even a 2-0 series win will at best help them bridge the gap with Pakistan and Sri Lanka but will not pull them up from their present eighth position.
Pakistan host Australia for a two-match series in the United Arab Emirates starting Sunday, with both sides having the chance to improve their positions in the Test team rankings.
India captain Virat Kohli would be aiming to consolidate his position at the top of the table since he is ahead of banned Australian run-machine Steve Smith by only one point.
Kohli’s concerns could be graver this time. He has just these two Tests to assess the international mettle of his uncapped openers—Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw, one of whom will definitely make his debut on Thursday. Two Tests might be too less a period to gauge enduring potential, but like the ground two days before the Test, Kohli would wish they too would make a brisk transformation.
Equally so his spark-less middle-order, another of his haunting concerns ignited by the England series. Rahane himself wouldn’t do badly to tuck in some runs and regain his battered temperament and reputation; Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant could reinforce that they have accosted to the demands of Test cricket. Even home-boy Cheteshwar Pujara could revive his gluttonous run-piling ways. They could be in for some robust examination by Shannon Gabriel & Co.
As for the bowlers, a fully-fit Ravichandran Ashwin could look to regain the rhythm that was amiss in the latter half of the England series. At the nets on Tuesday, he was getting a lot of body into his action, the follow-through came nicely along, and not jarred as it was after the Lord’s Test. So the more you inspect closely, the bigger the stakes are for some of the vital personnels of this team. As the truism goes, a few Test matches in familiar climes could be all they need for a magic makeover.
But whether they would demand truly familiar conditions or heckle to reproduce the ambitiously unreproducible Australia-like conditions has to be seen. Daljit and Co were flown to Rajkot, which led to much heartburn for the local curators, so that they could help make the surface hard and bouncy. But on the other hand, MSK Prasad was hypothetically speaking about playing three spinners, as is usual here for first-class fixtures.
There, though, was luxuriant grass on all strips, barring the middle one, where the grass was concentrated on the good-length area. It could also be to counter the harsh sun which could prematurely cut open the cracks, making it behave too oddly too early in the match. Later in the evening a group of ground-staff could be seen kneeling on the strip, wire brushes in hand, scrubbing away eagerly at the grass, suggestive of the live grass disappearing as the match draws closer.
There, of course, is a recent precedent of India getting the exact variety of pitch they’d wanted. In the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens, they’d briefed the curator for a seaming surface and their wish was fulfilled. Then the weather too favoured curating a green track. It was mid-November, and it had rained substantially in the build-up and during the match. But Rajkot is bestially hot, and the predominantly clayey soil doesn’t help their bid either. The curators in this neck of the woods swear that they can quickly turn a good pitch into a bad one, but not the other way around. That could be the only makeover that wouldn’t manifest in front of Kohli’s eyes.