BASSETERRE (St Kitts), July 8: India's new chief coach Anil Kumble will be keeping a keen eye on speedster Mohammed Shami's fitness along with the form of opener Shikhar Dhawan when the team begin its tour of West Indies with a two-day warm-up game against WICB President's XI on Saturday.
The two-day match will be an official game where both teams will get to bat a day each with all players being allowed to play.
For Kumble , it will be a new beginning with his boys ready to hit the straps in what promises to be an eventful 49-day tour in the assortment of islands where longer version of the game is no longer a priority.
Yet a team that has six current Test players including skipper Leon Johnson, Jermaine Blackwood, Rajendra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope and Jomel Warrican will mean that Indians are expected to get quality match practice. The first warm-up match will indicate as to how India's key speedster Mohammed Shami's body holds to the rigours of longer version -- when he comes back for his second and third spells.
Skipper Virat Kohli had in fact complimented Shami terming him as someone "who bowls the ideal Test match length".
Ishant Sharma, who has had a long lay-off, will also like to get into the groove along with Umesh Yadav as the trio will be key to Kohli's gameplans.
For the coach, it will be an opportunity to also test his reserve pacers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur. It is expected that the top-order batsmen will be atleast told to face around 75-80 balls.
When India tours abroad for Test series, the general norm is for specialist batsmen to play 75-80 balls (in case they don't get out) and then retire to allow others to get some time out there in the middle.
Shikhar Dhawan, whose form in the longer version has been pretty patchy, will look to get a few runs under his belt as it is expected that he will be facing the new ball alongside Murali Vijay, who is a certainty. Ditto for skipper Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, who need to get some batting time in the middle.
KL Rahul would like to breath down Dhawan's neck with a couple of good knocks in the practice games.
Similarly Rohit Sharma would aim to give Cheteshwar Pujara a tough fight for the only middle-order slot.
Stuart Binny comes into the equation depending on what the Kumble-Kohli duo think about him as the fifth bowler or third seamer. With the pitches in West Indies getting slower by the day, all the three spinners will take turns to roll their arm over. Barring fitness issues, Ravichandran Ashwin will be the premier spinner and in terms of pure skills Amit Mishra is certainly ahead of Ravindra Jadeja with his ability to get sufficient turn on his leg-breaks and bowl the odd googly.
Squads: India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny.
WICB President's XI squad: Leon Johnson (Capt.), Jermaine Blackwood, Rajendra Chandrika, Roston Chase, Jason Dawes, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope, Damion Jacobs, Keon Joseph, Marquino Mindley, Vishaul Singh, Jomel Warrican.
Match starts: 7:30pm (IST).