WI vs IND | Antigua Day 3 Talking Points - Rahul’s improved game sense and Holder’s defensive tactics

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BCCI

WI vs IND | Antigua Day 3 Talking Points - Rahul’s improved game sense and Holder’s defensive tactics

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Bastab K Parida

08/25/2019

In a slow day of Test cricket, India and Windies resorted to defensive tactics, with no one trying to come out of their comfort zone. That eventually resulted in India ending the day with a minuscule 185/3 in 72 overs, with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane being the two unbeaten batsmen.

Rahul - no longer a walking wicket against induckers

Cricket has not always been kind to KL Rahul, or conversely, he hasn’t been kind to the amount of talent that he possesses either. Some problems in his batting have been taking far too long to be solved and his perennial struggles against inswinging deliveries didn’t help the cause either. The fact that pace draws someone in instantly and late inswing is too big a problem for anyone who doesn’t play with an angled bat, Rahul succumbed to the pressure, more often than not.

For a fast bowler, the toughest thing while bowling to Rahul is the right length as his lanky stature makes it easy for him to go on the front foot quickly and, consequently, his back-foot play becomes minimal. However, he is comfortable opening the face of the bat to get singles, and so the pacers lately had focused on luring him into a drive. The negative intuition had been indicative of his failure and Rahul became a walking wicket in Test cricket against the balls that came in to him.

However, it seems, that is now a thing of the past as Rahul seemed supremely confident in his approach and against the pace bowling duo of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, he moved his feet just as much to ensure it didn’t catch him on the line of attack. Roach swung just enough, and with the wicket flattened out, he resorted to a balanced forward press. That meant he was in the best position to play the flicks and backfoot punches and the chances of LBW went down drastically.

Did Windies miss a trick with a defensive fieldset?

After being bundled out for 222 in the first innings, conceding India a lead of 75 runs, Windies needed to pull up the strings from the very beginning in the second innings. The wicket had been flattened out already, effectively taking Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach out of the equation. The onus was now on Roston Chase to deliver and Jason Holder soon employed Kraigg Brathwaite in order to take the benefits of the little amount of turn that the surface was generating.

While it was alright until that though, Holder wasn’t behind the eight ball after that. Both Chase and Brathwaite are bowlers of Ravindra Jadeja ilk and don’t really spin as much. The duo kept landing the ball on middle and leg but Holder went defensive instantly by sending the cover fielder to deep while having both mid-on and mid-off. It played to India’s strengths as Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane used their feet to crunch few boundaries here and there. 

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Even when the Indians' plans came out wide open thanks to their strike rotation, Holder did nothing to change the line of attack, making the proceedings easier for them. With two days of the game remaining, India would definitely try to bat until the lunch on Day 4 to give a 375-400 run target which would be a really tough proposition to achieve under five sessions. Had Holder been more proactive and put up a leg-side dominated field, it would really have been tougher for the Indians to get to where they eventually did.

Can we start celebrating Kemar Roach too

Jason Holder’s inspiring leadership has often been the centrepiece at Windies’ resurgence in the Test format and Shannon Gabriel’s pace make the headlines too. Rightfully so, after Windies changed their wicket to suit the Duke’s Ball, Gabriel’s pace became more of a calling card. But silently, yet effectively, Kemar Roach has done everything asked of him and more.

When he burst onto the scene, he was bowling consistently at around 150kph and many remember the moment his 146kph delivery rose to Ricky Ponting and forced him to retire hurt with an injured elbow. While most of the Caribbean players fell victim to the world of T20 cricket, Roach packed a promise in the red-ball cricket. 

Even to make himself last longer, he cut down around 10 kph from his bowling and became a bowler of James Anderson mould and boy, did he not do the right thing? As my colleague Anirudh Suresh just pointed out, with Anderson out injured, Roach, alongside Ishant Sharma, is probably the best swing bowler of the current time and even though he is not celebrated in the same vein as say a Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Mitchell Starc in Test cricket, he gets on with his job silently and effectively. 

Today, on a completely unresponsive wicket, Roach was still finding movement and had he gone for that DRS, he would have already had Rahane in his bag too. Wish lady luck were on his side today. Poor Kemar!

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