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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Youth give Virat Kohli's India hope ahead of testing Australia tour: West Indies series takeaways

Umesh Yadav also puts his hand up, while India's middle-order seems in better shape after two-match Test series

India were a happy lot after their series win against the West Indies, but bigger tests await. AP Photo
India were a happy lot after their series win against the West Indies, but bigger tests await. AP Photo

One hopes that India do not get ahead of themselves after beating a weak West Indies side in the two-match Test series at home on Sunday. Not when their next great challenge is to beat a more formidable Australian side in Australia at the turn of the year (more on that later).

That being said, you can only beat what is in front of you, so Virat Kohli's side have done well on that count.

Here are four takeaways from their series sweep.

Opening batsman Prithvi Shaw made a memorable Test debut for India against the West Indies. AP Photo
Opening batsman Prithvi Shaw made a memorable Test debut for India against the West Indies. AP Photo

Shaw, Pant and Kuldeep provide hope

The Indian selectors’ policy of blooding youngsters into the Test side seems to be bearing fruit these days.

Prithvi Shaw, who was picked for the recent England tour but did not get a game, was given a go in this series. And boy, how well did he play. At 18, he became the youngest Indian to score a hundred on debut in Rajkot, and then followed it up with scores of 70 and 33 not out in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Rishabh Pant has slotted into the Test team seamlessly, scoring a brilliant century in the dead rubber at The Oval against England. The wicketkeeper-batsman’s knock may well have won India the Test if not for a hare-brained shot that led to his dismissal, but then we are talking here of a 21 year old playing in his first series. He notched back-to-back scores of 92 against the Windies, thereby providing much-needed stability in the middle-order.

Then there is Kuldeep Yadav who, despite playing alongside Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the XI, outshone the two more experienced spinners. The left-arm leg-spinner took 10 wickets, one more than Ashwin and three more than Jadeja.

Whether he plays in Australia or not, Kuldeep is only 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him.

Fast bowler Umesh Yadav looks like he is primed for India's tour of Australia. AP Photo
Fast bowler Umesh Yadav looks like he is primed for India's tour of Australia. AP Photo

Umesh picks right moment to take 10-for

For a period of time in 2011/12, Umesh Yadav was considered a potential pace spearhead for India.

That was not to be, as he struggled with injuries even as Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar put their hands up. And now with Jasprit Bumrah impressing on a consistent basis, Umesh has slid down the pecking order.

But the 31 year old has usually performed well whenever he got a game, and a match-total of 10 wickets in Hyderabad – his career-best haul – proves why he could still be a dangerous proposition on the bouncy Australian wickets.

That he has an impressive strike-rate of 52.8 in Indian conditions suggests two things: he is super fit, and he is willing to bend his back on pitches that have can be trying for seamers.

Seeing as he already has a five-wicket haul in Australia, he should figure prominently in the team management’s plans down under.

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Read more:

Virat Kohli says India to unleash 'fearless' Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant on Australians

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil: Prithvi Shaw has mental strength to overcome bigger challenges

India's England tour report card: How they rated, and who should be picked for Australia

England series takeaways: Beaten India in need of a reality check ahead of Australia tour

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As the seniors in the team, there will be pressure on Ajinkya Rahane, right, and Cheteshwar Pujara to perform in Australia. Reuters
As the seniors in the team, there will be pressure on Ajinkya Rahane, right, and Cheteshwar Pujara to perform in Australia. Reuters

Pujara and Rahane steady but not spectacular

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have two things in common – they do not seem the flashy type, and as a result of that, they give the impression of being unflappable at the wicket.

They bat at Nos 3 and 5, respectively, and have provided ample support to the No 4 batsman – the more aggressive, in-your-face Virat Kohli – especially in home conditions.

However, neither player went on to score a big one against the Windies: Pujara got scores of 86 and 10, while Rahane managed 41 and 80.

How they perform in the more challenging Australian conditions, therefore, will be a matter of great interest to the management and fans – especially after underwhelming in England.

They have another thing in common: they are both 30 years old, which means they should be at the peak of their powers at this stage of their careers. Rahane has done well in Australia, too – who can forget his 147 at Melbourne in 2014 – so it may just be a question of working from memory.

One thing is for sure: as seniors in the team (Rahane is Kohli’s vice-captain), the pressure to contribute significantly with the bat will be immense on both players.

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Windies curse might still be on

It may be a matter of coincidence, but India have followed up their last two-and-a-half series victories (you read that right) against the West Indies with heavy losses on tours.

India beat the Windies 1-0 in a three-match away series before getting thrashed 4-0 in England in the summer of 2011. They won 2-0 in a three-match home series against the Windies the same year only to be blanked 4-0 again – this time in Australia – a few months later.

The Indian board also scheduled a Windies tour of the subcontinent shortly before their 2014/15 visit to Australia. The men in blue won the truncated one-day international series before the Tests was cancelled with the Windies pulling out over a pay dispute.

What happened next? They lost the four-match Test series 2-0 to the Baggy Greens.

In short, don’t get your hopes up too much for 2018/19.