Amid the off-field controversies over the exit of head coach Anil Kumble, ICC Champions Trophy runners-up India start as favourites in the first of the five-match ODI series against a lacklusture West Indies at the Queen’s Park Oval here on Friday.
On paper, the West Indies are currently no match for the men-in-blue, specially after Jason Holder’s men were held by callow Afghanistan to a 1-1 draw in the brief One-day International (ODI) rubber earlier this month.
Compared to the visitors, who can boast of a collective total of 776 matches among the trio of Yuvraj Singh (301), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (291) and Virat Kohli (184), the West Indies have a cumulative ODI experience of 213 matches between 13 players, skipper Holder being the most-capped player among them with 58 matches to his name.
For India, this series is also an ideal platform to test the team’s bench strength. With Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah from the Champions Trophy squad absent on the tour, Kohli will be tempted to play Ajinkya Rahane at the top besides giving Mohammed Shami a chance in place of Bumrah.
Shami has not played any official ODI since the 2015 World Cup semi-final, after which he had multiple surgeries and only played a few Test matches.
In the batting order, Kohli may induct the hard-hitting Rishabh Pant, the new addition to the squad, while Dinesh Karthik may get a few games if Yuvraj or Kedar Jadhav are rested.
Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav is likely to get his chance in place of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin or left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja — both of whom were unimpressive during the ICC Champions Trophy.
On the other hand, the hosts will bank on their pace battery led by Holder and comprising Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel, Rovman Powell, and spinners Ashley Nurse and Roston Chase.
The No.9 ranked side will also expect their top order batsmen containing the likes of Evin Lewis, Kieran Powell and Shai Hope to fire, if they are to pose any threat to the No.3-ranked visitors.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav.
West Indies: Jason Holder (Captain), Jonathan Carter, Miguel Cummins, Alzarri Joseph, Jason Mohammed, Kieran Powell, Kesrick Williams, Devendra Bishoo, Roston Chase, Shai Hope (WK), Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell.