India vs West Indies: With number 1 ranking on line, Virat Kohli and co will go for the kill
India will be aiming to complete a 3-0 rout in order to regain its No 1 Test ranking when they meet a listless West Indies in the final Test match of the series at Port of Spain on Thursday.
Port of Spain: On a high after sealing the series with comprehensive victories, an upbeat India will be aiming to complete a 3-0 rout in order to regain its No 1 Test ranking when they meet a listless West Indies in the final Test match of the series at Port of Spain on Thursday.
Having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series after their crushing 237-run win in the third Test, Virat Kohli and his men will be aiming to go for the kill in their bid to displace Australia from the pole position in the ICC Test rankings list.
However a draw at the Queen's Park Oval would mean that Australia will maintain their top position while Pakistan by virtue of their creditable 2-2 draw against England will be the No 2 Test team.
With skipper Kohli making it clear that he will like to have Rohit Sharma at No 5 and promote himself to No 3, it is unlikely that the core batting line-up will have any change in the final Test match.
However with Shikhar Dhawan not having much of a performance barring his 84 in the opening Test, it will be interesting to see if Murali Vijay, who was dropped in the last game despite being fit makes a comeback in the playing XI. The opener's thumb injury has fully healed, as announced by batting coach Sanjay Bangar previously.
At this point of time, Cheteshwar Pujara getting a lifeline seems unlikely.
Even the five-pronged bowling attack could undergo change. In a long season, where India play another 13 Tests, the workload for the likes of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami needs to be managed.
One of them could be afforded a breather, with a rebounding chance given to Umesh Yadav, or even newbie Shardul Thakur could get a look-in, if Kohli is in experimental mode.
Away from these permutations and combinations, India look set in their plans. Their energy will be focussed on attaining consistency, and as the skipper put it, in expressing themselves.
The standout performer in the series for India has been Ravichandran Ashwin, who is now world No 1 all-rounder in Test as per the official rankings.
With two centuries and two five-wicket hauls, the Tamil Nadu lad has been the toast of the team. His 235 runs and 16 wickets have gone a long way to ensure that India have cantered to victory in the two Test matches.
More importantly, Ashwin has scored runs in pressure situations and provided crucial breakthroughs just when it was required.
If Ashwin is a sureshoit candidate for the Man of the Series award, one certainly needs to applaud Mohammed Shami for his lion-hearted performances in the three-Test matches after a hiatus of nearly one and half years due to serious knee injury.
11 wickets in 3 games may not be much in terms of volume but he has been very effective with the new as well as the old ball. The most experienced West Indian Test batsmen like Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo had been troubled by the Bengal speedster.
Among the batsmen, opener KL Rahul (236 runs) has been pretty consistent with a big hundred and a half-century in the two Tests while Ajinkya Rahane has again showed why he is such an important cog in the Indian team's wheel with 243 runs that includes a ton and a half century.
Skipper Kohli is still top run-getter with 251 runs but it's more to do with the double hundred that he scored in the opening Test.
There has been this debate whether the visitors have done just enough keeping in mind the relative weaknesses of the opposition and never moved out of third gear. If the Indian team does take the No 1 Test crown, they will have to be more ruthless, a trait not showcased in this series until days four and five in St Lucia.
West Indies, meanwhile, will be hoping for some level of improvement in their play after yet another meek surrender. After Roston Chase's hundred in Jamaica, things looked upbeat for the hosts particularly after they reduced India to 130/5 in the first innings of the third Test.
An experienced bowling attack would have made that opportunity count, but the inexperienced hosts let chances slip and then the match turned.
For a step forward in the second Test, they have again regressed two back. As such barring a standout spell, or two, it is tough to expect them to bowl India out twice.
They will hope to put an inspirational effort though, with hopes once again pegged on the experienced duo, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels. Any changes, despite the crushing loss in the previous match, look unlikely.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd. Shami, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma.
West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Leon Johnson, Shane Dowrich (wk), Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Alzarri Joseph.
Match starts on Thursday at: 7.30 pm IST.
The three ODIs will be played on 8, 11 and 14 November before the two sides travel to Zimbabwe for the World Cup qualifiers that begin on 21 November.
Ravichandran Ashwin had earlier been included alongside Ravindra Jadeja in India's T20 World Cup squad with Rahul Chahar picked as the third spin option.
Daren Sammy led the West Indies to their second World T20 title, beating hosts India along the way as MS Dhoni's celebrated side once again stuttered in a crunch game.