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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Virat Kohli's India target West Indies boost ahead of Australia tour

Hosts overwhelming favourites to win two-Test series, but England drubbing has exposed weaknesses in side

Captain Virat Kohli will return to the Indian Test team after being rested for the Asia Cup. Reuters
Captain Virat Kohli will return to the Indian Test team after being rested for the Asia Cup. Reuters

Stung by defeat in England and heading to Australia for a tough tour next month, India's cricketers are looking for some confidence-boosting home victories against the West Indies from Thursday.

The No 1 Test side and winners of last week's Asia Cup start as favourites against the eighth-ranked West Indies in the series of two Tests, five one-day internationals and three twenty20 games.

"West Indies doesn't have a team to compete against India. They don't stand a chance at all," veteran India spinner Harbhajan Singh told AFP ahead of the first Test in Rajkot starting on Thursday.

But India may not find it so easy, with series defeats this year in England and South Africa revealing some serious chinks in India's armour, at least away from home.

Under captain Virat Kohli, India have new faces in uncapped batsman Mayank Agarwal and fast bowler Mohammed Siraj.

Siraj will bolster the pace attack led by Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav who could trouble the relatively young West Indian batting line-up.

Meanwhile spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav are a formidable force on home turf.

The Jason Holder-led West Indies are arriving off the back of a successful home season where they drew a Test series against Sri Lanka and then drubbed Bangladesh 2-0.

Batsman Sunil Ambris has already made his case for a place in the team XI after his unbeaten 114 in the tourists' only warm-up game in India.

The return of Kemar Roach, left, is expected to bolster the West Indies pace attack for the Test series against India. AFP
The return of Kemar Roach, left, is expected to bolster the West Indies pace attack for the Test series against India. AFP

Roach returns

The erstwhile cricket powerhouse have been bolstered by the return of experienced quick bowler Kemar Roach who will join fellow pacemen Holder and Shannon Gabriel.

"We have played some really good cricket in recent times. Quite a few of our guys stood out individually and we have to keep that collective strength," Holder was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper.

"India is the No 1 Test team. They have played some good cricket despite their last series [against England]. It will be a good test for us," said Holder, captain in 26 of his 34 Tests.

Holder also said that leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo could prove to be key on turning Indian tracks.

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"He has been around for a while and doing well. The conditions could favour him a bit more here. We expect him to come into play in this series and be a match-winner," he said of Bishoo.

The Guyanese player famously took 8-49 against Pakistan in a Test in Dubai two years ago. It proved to be the fifth-best return by a West Indies bowler in Tests - better than any of the all-time greats like Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall or Courtney Walsh managed.

It will be West Indies' first India tour since the Caribbean side abandoned their 2014 trip due to a players' pay dispute with the national cricket board.