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India eyeing 3-0 series win in West Indies to keep No. 1 ranking

Last updated on: August 17, 2016 21:41 IST

Pakistan will top the table if India fails to win the final Test against the West Indies.

IMAGE: The Indian team in the West Indies. Photograph: BCCI.

On a high after sealing the series with comprehensive victories, an upbeat India will be looking to complete a 3-0 rout in order to retain the No. 1 ranking in Tests when they meet a listless West Indies in the final match of the series in Port of Spain on Thursday.

Having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series after a crushing 237-run win in the third Test, Virat Kohli and his men will go for the kill to keep the top ranking in Tests.

India were reinstated as the No. 1 Test side after Australia's 0-3 whitewash at the hands of Sri Lanka. 

However, a draw at the Queen's Park Oval will see Pakistan, ranked No. 2, take over as the top Test side.

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 last match.

However, with Shikhar Dhawan not doing much, 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 eleven. The opener's thumb injury has fully healed, as announced by batting coach Sanjay Bangar.

On the eve of the match, it appears that Cheteshwar Pujara is unlikely to get a lifeline.

IMAGE: India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket on Day 4 of the third Test against the West Indies in Gros Islet. Photograph: WICB Media.

Even the five-pronged bowling attack could undergo change.

In a long season, where India plays 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.

India's stand-out performer in the series is Ravichandran Ashwin, the world No 1 all-rounder in Tests, as per the official rankings.

With two centuries and two five-wicket hauls, the Tamil Nadu lad is the toast of the team. His 235 runs and 16 wickets have gone a long way in ensuring that India cantered to victory in the two Test matches.

More importantly, Ashwin has scored runs in pressure situations and provided crucial breakthroughs just when required.

IMAGE: India's Ravichandran Ashwin appeals for a wicket. Photograph: BCCI.

If Ashwin is the most likely candidate for the Man of the Series award, one certainly needs to applaud Shami for his lion-hearted performances in the three concluded Tests after a hiatus of nearly a year-and-a-half due to a serious knee injury.

11 wickets in three 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, were troubled by the Bengal speedster.

Among the batsmen, opener K L 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, which includes a ton and a half century.

Skipper Kohli is still the top run-getter with 251 runs, but it's more to do with the double hundred that he scored in the opening Test.

There is 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.

For the team to take the No 1 Test ranking it will have to be more ruthless, a trait not showcased in this series until days four and five in St. Lucia.

The West Indies, meanwhile, will be hoping for some level of improvement in their play after yet another meek surrender.

IMAGE: Roston Chase celebrates after scoring his century. Photograph: WICB Media Photo/Athelstan Bellamy.

After Roston Chase's hundred in Jamaica, things looked upbeat for the hosts, particularly after they reduced India to 130 for 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.

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