Rajkot: Teenage prodigy Prithvi Shaw is set to open alongside KL Rahul in the first Test against the West Indies after India on Wednesday started the practice of naming their final 12 before the start of every game.
The move of naming the final 12 ahead of the game has more or less settled the debate on the playing eleven. Shaw, who earned a maiden call-up midway into the England tour but did not get a game, has been preferred over Mayank Agarwal for the series opener. Agarwal had broken into the team after scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket and at India A level. What is also clear now is that India will go in with five specialist bowlers and the most likely 12th man will be Shardul Thakur.
Three specialist spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav — have been picked and the pace pairing will be of Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav. Hanuma Vihari, who had a made gritty 56 on debut at The Oval against England, has been dropped. Wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant will bat at six while Jadeja will be expected to make vital lower-order contributions in the absence of injured all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The West Indies series presents a good opportunity for Shaw to make his case for the upcoming Australia tour as pointed out by captain Virat Kohli, who said the top-order is the only area where experimentation is needed.
It will be a dream come true for Shaw when he walks out to bat here. The 18-year-old’s India debut will hardly be a surprise to those who felt the supremely talented bastman was destined to play for the country ever since he started scoring bagful of runs in school cricket in Mumbai.
And when Shaw led the India U-19 to the World Cup title in New Zealand earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before he graduated to the highest level.
Another strong indicator of his rare talent is his first-class record. In 14 games, he averages 56.72 and has made seven hundred and five half-centuries including a ton on Ranji Trophy debut in November 2016. And almost a year later, he became the youngest to reach three figures on Duleep Trophy debut.
There was an intense debate on the opening combination going into the first Test since India had dropped Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan for young blood. The picture on whether Shaw or Agarwal will open alongside Rahul only became clear after Kohli’s pre-match press conference here.
Both the uncapped openers had batted in the nets on Tuesday and even on Wednesday morning, the mystery remained as Shaw took gentle throwdowns. Local hero Cheteshwar Pujara and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane spent the maximum time in the nets. It all became clear with the announcement of final 12 as India took the cue from the likes of Australia, who name their final eleven before the start of the match.