KINGSTON (Jamaica): Skipper Virat Kohli might open the innings when India take on the West Indies in a one-off Twenty20, aiming to finish their Caribbean sojourn on a high despite the threat posed by Chris Gayle’s return to the home team.
After winning the five-match ODI series 3-1, India will certainly have an upperhand despite the presence of Gayle, who can single-handedly swing fortunes especially in the shortest format.
However, Gayle will be donning the Caribbean maroons after a gap 15 months during which he has battled injuries as well as poor form during the IPL, which was his last competitive tournament before this particular game.
West Indies are reigning world champions with the likes of Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree still a part of the current squad led by their World T20 hero Carlos Brathwaite.
Also there’s Evin Lewis, who had scored a 49-ball-100 in West Indies’ one-run win over India in a T20 game in Florida, last year.
But T20 is one format where the home team starts on even keel against an Indian team which had its foot firmly on the pedal save an occasional blip in Jamaica.
The change in format may bring about some strategic shift in the playing XI with Kohli expected to open the innings. Kohli has opened a lot for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and also occasionally for India when Rohit Sharma has not been around.
While Ajinkya Rahane has had a fantastic ODI series with close to 350 runs including a century and three half-tons, Kohli opening the innings with Shikhar Dhawanlooks more imminent considering the change in format.
The young Rishabh Pant could finally get his chance on the tour. Pant was a part of the playing XI that last played a T20 match against England in Bengaluru, earlier this year.
The Indian team management is aiming to groom Pant as the future limited-overs glovesman and that’s the reason he may get his chance.
Kuldeep Yadav, who has been a successful T20 bowler for Kolkata Knight Riders, may also make his T20 International debut after an impressive series in which he picked up eight wickets.
Since there has been a pattern in the first XI selection of the Indian team, the last T20 International saw leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal pick up six England wickets.
With Chahal not being a part of this squad, the management may go for a wrist spinner in Kuldeep, who has the ability trouble the batsmen with his wrong ‘uns.
IPL’s highest wicket-taker, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, after some well-earned rest, will be leading the pace attack alongside Umesh Yadav.
For West Indies, the onus will be on their spin twins Narine and Badree, who can trouble the Indian batsmen with their variations. Narine may also open the innings, something which he successfully did for KKR in the IPL.