Opinion Piece

India Begin the New WTC Cycle in West Indies: A Period of Transition

The new WTC cycle heralds a slew of changes for the India Test squad as they look to infuse young blood.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip Mohanty

Last Updated: 2023-07-12

Table of Contents

India seek victory

After making it to the finals of the first two World Test Championships and not being able to lift the title, Team India is set to begin the quest for the third WTC cycle with a 2-match series against West Indies. After taking over the reigns from Virat Kohli in the middle of the second cycle, Rohit Sharma will lead the side in the Caribbean with the recently returned and experienced Ajinkya Rahane appointed as his deputy.

Lots of significant changes have been made in the Indian squad announced for the series as they look to check the boxes required to win a multi team event which they have failed to do so since 2018 when the men in blue last lifted the Asia cup. After the ICC Champions Trophy victory in 2013, the Indian team has failed to win any ICC event despite performing well. India did reach the semifinals in both the ODI World cups after the 2011 win but failed to go beyond. They were the runner ups in the 2014 World T20 and made it to the semis twice; in 2016 and 2022. The men in blue were close to victory in the 2017 Champions Trophy but lost to Pakistan in the grand finale.

After changing the leadership, coaches, selectors and even the domestic structure, India are at it again in the new cycle which begins right before the 50-over World cup. There has been a shake up in the squad with a few youngsters been added in the squad. The biggest omission would be of senior statesman Cheteshwar Pujara who has been shown the door after a tremendous career comprising of 103 Tests and over 7000 runs with 19 hundreds in the purest format of the game. Another senior pro Ajinkya Rahane, who served a period out of the team and made a comeback for the WTC final on the basis of strong performances in Ranji Trophy and the IPL has been appointed the vice captain on the Windies tour.

In the absence of Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav who have batted in the Indian middle order in Test cricket, India will need to breed one of their opening options to drop a spot down at number 3 as they don’t have any middle order batter in their squad. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill are the options as all three of them are young and have a long career ahead. There are a few candidates waiting in the wings such as Sarfaraz Khan who has performed excellently in domestic cricket. Then there is Rinku Singh of Uttar Pradesh having an average of over 50 in both First class and List A cricket.

The skipper Rohit Sharma has indicated that the team is ‘in a desperate need of a left hand batter’ which means Ishan Kishan might get a nod in the Test XI in the absence of Rishabh Pant who is yet to recover to full fitness after his horrible accident. Srikar Bharat was preferred as the keeper after doors were closed for the senior pro Wriddhiman Saha earlier as the team wanted to look at the future with Pant exceeding expectations scoring heaps of runs in every conditions. Talking about left hander, Mumbai opener Yashasvi Jaiswal can also get a go in the XI as he averages over 80 in First Class cricket and had a tremendous domestic season to back his claim. He would be the first left hand opener after Shikhar Dhawan in Tests.

The obsession with left handers isn’t new for the Indian team. There has been an influx of left arm spinners since the last few years. Shahbaz Nadeem, Axar Patel and Saurabh Kumar has been called in the team on various occasions with Nadeem and Patel also getting to play some Tests at home. Axar is a brilliant allrounder and also has the experience of playing County cricket in England for Durham. However the left arm seamer conundrum is still not over for India after Zaheer Khan’s retirement. At one time, India could field at least 4 or 5 left hand fast bowlers if they were fit and available at the same time. Bowlers such as Zaheer, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Ashish Nehra were all present in the last couple of decades. Now India has gone back to Jaydev Unadkat who made his debut in 2010 in South Africa and made a comeback in the last cycle against Bangladesh after some heavy performances in domestic cricket over the years. In the left arm fast bowling reserves, India has T Natarajan who made his debut in the famous Australia tour in 2020/21. Chetan Sakariya from Saurashtra is another prospect who has got some opportunities to play limited overs cricket against Sri Lanka a couple of years back. India also provided chances to out of favor duo of Barinder Sran and Khaleel Ahmed in the past but in the white ball format. Jasprit Bumrah’s long time injury and workload management of other senior pacers Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav calls for a left arm seamer to stake their claim in the team.

The next WTC final is slated to be played in 2025 at Lord’s, continuing the tradition of playing the finals in UK. Despite the fact, there has been no ‘A’ team tour scheduled on a tour of England. The India ‘A’ team which once was known to be the like for like replacement of the senior team last played a First Class fixture in England way back in 2018. After a 50-overs tri series between India A, West Indies A and hosts England Lions, the Indian team played a couple of unofficial Tests versus West Indies A and a solitary game against a strong Lions team. Some sureties of the Test squad were involved in the Lions game as the England Test series was looming but eight players involved in the unofficial Tests went ahead and made their debuts for India in the near future.

With another WTC final slated in England, it won’t be too bad a ploy to schedule some games overseas especially in England for the players who are on the cusp of Indian selection. It will provide them the experience and also it will be a great help for the team management to test certain players in certain situations and roles. The trio of Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rahane got the opportunity to feature in Tests with the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman etc. before it was time for the trio to replace the outgoing players. Hence it is another opportunity for the Indian team management and the young players to make things right and take the right steps towards another ICC title.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip MohantySports Editor

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.