The five bowler talk is back as Virat Kohli espouses the importance of taking 20 wickets, with India going into the first Test match against the West Indies as the overwhelming favourites. While West Indies have a new-look team, a familiar feel remains in the India camp, even if this series is the start of life with new coach Anil Kumble.
Kumble, just like Kohli, was an aggressive player, who gave everything there was to give out on the field, and with the pitch at the Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua expected to be on the slow and not-much-for-the-bowlers side, India should go into this match with five bowlers included in the playing XI.
"I am always in the favour of playing five bowlers because if we play more batsmen, you can score 700 runs in a Test but that doesn't help in any way," Kohli told reporters on Wednesday, before going to his favourite 20-wicket saying. "You need to take 20 wickets to win a Test match.
"So our top five batsmen plus the wicketkeeper will have to take responsibility and raise a big score so that we can bowl them out twice.
"Even if we do need put on a big score, we need to get enough runs so that we don't need to bat for long the second time. This has been our mindset for the last two seasons and we want to start the series with that same mindset that our bowling should be strong enough to take 20 wickets."
Of those five bowlers, R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma are certain to make it to the playing XI, considering they are the spin and fast bowling spearheads. Ravindra Jadeja showed just how difficult he is to get away in the practice match, and considering his performances in the Test series win over South Africa and the fact that he can contribute with the bat as well, the left-armer should be picked.
Mohammed Shami was given a good workout in the buildup to this Test match, and it does look like the fast bowler will partner Ishant Sharma with the new ball – assuming Ashwin is not given the bright, shiny red cherry, of course.
That means the final slot for the bowlers looks like coming down to Amit Mishra and Stuart Binny – in the nets on Tuesday, the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur layed second fiddle, suggesting they will not be considered for this match.
Kohli has played Binny in away conditions often, and could use the swing bowler if he thinks the pitch will suit his needs. However, since a slow wicket is expected and the fact that Mishra did reasonably well in the two practice matches, the legspinner could be the one getting the nod ahead of Binny.
In the batting, the only real decision to make for Kohli -- since the captain has already said he will go with five bowlers, Rohit Sharma is out of the running – is who will open the innings with Murali Vijay. KL Rahul made his case quite well with a couple of strong scores in the warmup matches, but the temptation to play a right and left-hander at the top could swing it in Dhawan's favour.
West Indies will have a new wicketkeeper in their playing XI in the form of Shane Dowrich, after Denesh Ramdin was dropped by the selectors. Kraigg Brathwaite, one of the players West Indies captain Jason Holder and coach Phil Simmons will look to, to score the bulk of the runs, is expected to open the innings with Rajendra Chandrika, while fast bowler Miguel Cummins should get his debut. Two of Leon Johnson, Jermaine Blackwood and Roston Chase are expected to sit on the bench from the 13-man squad for the home team.
Expected playing XI: India: Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Carlos Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (C), Shannon Gabriel, Devendra Bishoo.