India and West Indies begin their World Test Championship campaign with a 2-Test series begining on Thursday, August 22. India are the overwhelming favourites but most cricket fans around the world, including Indians, also hope that the home side's victory over England in their previous Test series wasn't a fluke. They would like to see it as a revival of fortunes for the Caribbean side.
As we get set for the series, there are 5 clear factors on whom will hinge the outcome of the contest. Let's look at those factors in brief.
West Indies' vulnerability against spin
Spin bowling has always been an Achilles heel for the West Indian sides. Of course, when you have legendary names like Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richards, no bowler is going to cause much trouble. But even in late 1980s, when West Indies were ruling the roost in international cricket, they struggled against quality tweakers. How much they are able to overcome this deficiency will be key in deciding the fate of the series.
India have three quality spin bowlers in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. Ashwin and Yadav may be especially dangerous as they have the ability to beat the batsmen in flight, something the West Indians find very hard to deal with. However, they have a good player of spin in Darren Bravo. He is probably the only one who is able to react to the length of the ball. His performance would be crucial.
Form of Gabriel and Roach
One of the biggest factors in West Indies' victory over England was the brilliant performance of their lead pacers – Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach. While the former bowled like a typical hostile pacemen, troubling batsmen with his speed and bounce, Roach provided a great example of effective swing bowling. If West Indies have to trouble India like they did England, these two men have to lead the way when West Indies bowl. Otherwise, West Indies would be chasing leather for a very long time.
If flat pitches are served up for this series, West Indies can forget all about giving India a fight. For the hosts to have a chance, they need to have tracks which provide assistance to fast men. That may backfire as well with India also possessing a formidable fast bowling battery. But that's the only way Windies can give themselves a chance. Otherwise, the Indian batting line-up would be plundering runs and the Indian spinners would probably make merry.
Hope and Hetmyer's contribution
This series would be a big test for Shai Hope. Ever since he scored the twin hundreds at Headingley to help West Indies record a famous win in 2017, he has been a big hope for his side. However, in Tests, the right-hander has consistently failed to make a mark since that game. This series would be another opportunity for him to correct his record.
For Shimron Hetmyer, these two matches provide a chance to keep enhancing his reputation. Recognised by everyone as a great talent, Hetmyer has shown a worrying tendency to not be able to rein in his stroke-making and throwing his wicket away. If he can mix some caution into his flair, the left-hander may produce great results.
For West Indies, both Hetmyer and Hope have to deliver if they are to pose a serious challenge to India.
Form of Bumrah
While India's pace bowling attack looks very strong overall, the key man would once again be Jasprit Bumrah. The pacer from Gujarat has been the most effective bowler across formats for the Indian team and could well rattle the opposition batsmen with his pace and bounce, not to mention other tricks like slower deliveries and yorkers. The more the West Indian batsmen are able to blunt the right-arm speedster, the better the chances of their team would be.