21 July-2014, India Today: Fast bowler Ishant Sharma scalped seven crucial wickets to put India…
Bolstered by the comprehensive win in the series opener, an upbeat India will look to assert its supremacy over an inexperienced West Indies with yet another commanding show in the second Test, starting here on Saturday.
The ‘Men In Blue’ made a confident start to the 2016-17 season, recording India’s biggest win outside the subcontinent when they thrashed the hosts by an innings and 92 runs in the opening Test.
India will look to continue in the same vein in the tour, which is Anil Kumble’s debut series as chief coach of the team.
But it would be easier said than done as a green pitch awaits the visitors at Sabina Parka, a stark contrast to the conditions in Antigua, where the visitors had won the match in four days.
Going by the records, it was way back in 2008 when a Test lasted five days at Sabina Park which Australia won by 98 runs. Since then, five Tests have been played here and all of them have finished within four days, including India’s 63-run win in 2011.
The West Indies’s last Test here was against Australia in the summer of 2015, and that match finished past lunch on the fourth day.
While India will find comfort in a settled line-up, there are some obvious points to ponder over like the fitness of opener M. Vijay.
Uncertainty lies over Vijay’s availability as there is still no confirmation on whether he is fit enough to play or not.
The opener has been missing action since being hit on the thumb by Shannon Gabriel on the first morning of the series, and didn’t field for a single minute in the first Test. But the question remains, whether the team management would be willing to risk playing Vijay when they have another opener available in K.L.
The other issue is about the team combination, and whether skipper Virat Kohli will opt for a five-bowler attack once again.
If the West Indies does pick another pacer, or even two more, an additional full-time batsman will mark a conservative selection on Kohli’s part, especially since India’s three frontline batsmen — Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane — contributed only 45 out of 566 runs in Antigua.
Playing a full-time batsman will mean added overs for his three pacers and one less bowler to choose from. And so it could tempt him to go in with Stuart Binny instead, who provides him a medium-pace option as well as adds to the lower middle-order.
Either way, Amit Mishra is expected to sit out in Jamaica as his spin partner R. Ashwin shone bright in the first Test with his all-round performance.
On a green pitch, India’s three pacers — Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami — will once again prove to be more than a handful for the West Indies batsmen, who failed in both innings in Antigua.
On the bowling front, a green wicket gives the West Indies bowlers more penetration, and thus a good chance against the strong Indian batting line-up.
The inclusion of rookie pacer Alzarri Joseph comes as a welcome move. The 19-year-old Joseph could be in line to make his Test debut as will be 25-year-old Miguel Cummins, who was ignored for the Antigua match.
Among the West Indies batsmen, Marlon Samuels will be in the spotlight as since the end of the first Test, rumour has been swirling about his future with some suggesting that the 35-year-old could be playing his last Test series.
The teams (from):
India: Virat Kohli (Capt.), M. Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, K.L.
West Indies: Jason Holder (Capt.), Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Leon Johnson, Shane Dowrich (wk), Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Alzarri Joseph.