With seven Test Matches to be played in the coming months, Team India and its think-tank would be tested to the hilt. On the other hand, three Tests against the West Indies and four against England would surely provide the younger set of Indian players with opportunities to prove their mettle at the very highest level of the game.
Injuries to Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, the established openers, have given Murali Vijay and debutant Abhinav Mukund the chance to establish themselves at this level. That too in a full series against a so-so West Indian attack. The two Chennai openers have been in fabulous form for their State team, Tamil Nadu, and even featured in a record 400 run plus partnership for them last year.
Being from the same State would give them an opportunity to forge an effective opening partnership which would give India appreciable back-up strength even when the formidable Delhi duo returns to the side for the England tour.
Virat Kohli makes his Test debut too, at Sabina Park, to bat in the middle order, in the absence of the great master himself, Sachin Tendulkar. The need to focus on the key tours to England and even Australia, to take place later in the year, has clearly influenced Tendulkar’s decision to skip the tour to the Caribbean.
Tendulkar would be looking to score a century at Lord’s during the summer, a feat missing from his glittering array of achievements till now. He would also like to make his last tour to Australia as memorable as his earlier ones have been.
Kohli has been a revelation for India in the One Day matches till now, and was one of the stars of the World Cup victory. He would be looking to score some big runs against the West Indians to try and remain in the team even on the England tour, because the number 6 slot is still not permanently occupied.
Cheteshwar Pujara who impressed in his few outings at that position landed up with an injury himself during the IPL. That has re-opened the door for Suresh Raina to try and resurrect his Test career after it had floundered towards the end of last year.
Pujara and Yuvraj Singh wait in the wings to re-take that number 6 position in the batting order if Raina and Kohli flop in the Tests against the Windies, and once Tendulkar returns to the middle order.
The bowling has been weakened too, with Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth pulling out. Even Abhimanyu Mithun could not play the first Test for extraordinary visa-related reasons, leaving Ishant Sharma and another debutant Parveen Kumar to fill the breach.
Unless these two form a cohesive and penetrative opening pair for India, the West Indians would be off to good starts in the series, the absence of Chris Gayle notwithstanding. Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra appear to be in good form with the ball though, and could hold the key to the series for India, but they would need support from the new ball bowlers.
Skipper and wicket keeper MS Dhoni has his hands literally full as he takes on a West Indian team that is trying to revive its lost glory. Playing the England side could be the real challenge though. The Andrew Strauss led hosts would be keen to continue the sparkling form they have displayed against the hapless Sri Lankans.
A summer of gripping Test cricket awaits us. We shall watch with bated breath!