Team India go into their final game of the West Indies tour – the second Test – knowing that they have the chance to return home without having lost a single game in the entire tour in all three formats. However, skipper Virat Kohli has some tough calls to make ahead of clash at Sabina Park.
KL Rahul: Rahul had two solid starts (44 and 38) in the first Test, but both times he failed to capitalise on them, falling twice to the off-spin of Roston Chase. However, he looked positive from the word go and was patient in building his innings. So, he has done enough to guarantee an opportunity tomorrow. India doesn’t have another opener in the squad, but in three months time, a certain Prithvi Shaw will be back in the circuit, so Rahul may want to take it up a notch right about now.
Mayank Agarwal: Unlike his debut series in Australia, Agarwal failed to impress in his first outing in the Caribbean. But lucky for him, India doesn’t have a backup option at the top – unless they promote Rohit Sharma, which is unlikely but cannot be ruled out. This will be only his 4th Test match, so it would be unfair to pass the verdict on him already. And given that he was picked as a substitute in the World Cup squad as an opener, the team clearly look at him as a long-term option.
Cheteshwar Pujara: Once again, the choice for No.3 (and No.4) is a no-brainer. But, Pujara had a subpar match overall at Antigua, given his recent lofty standards. This is exactly why India’s new wall will look to pack some runs back home with him from West Indies before he heads into a series against South Africa at home. In both innings in the first Test, Pujara was scalped by the impressive Kemar Roach, but the Indian will look to have the final laugh come August 4.
Virat Kohli: Although he scored a crucial half-century in the second innings, Kohli did not have a great outing in the first Test. Apart from a 200 not out on his last visit, Kohli has not had a great time in whites away to West Indies. Also, the Indian skipper’s dismissal in the first innings – off a short ball – seemed like it exposed an increasingly noticeable flaw in his technique. However, he will look to gain confidence from the updated batsman’s rankings, by which he is still No.1, and look to set the record straight in the Caribbean.
Ajinkya Rahane: Before the first Test match, no one was certain if Rahane would make the playing XI. After the first Test, no one is questioning his worthiness for a place in the lineup – ah, the game of cricket! However, Rahane himself will not be satisfied with one bright match after what seemed like an eternity of dull ones. And so, as the Indian vice-captain steps out tomorrow, he will look to once again build his case as India’s best overseas batsman in Test cricket.
Hanuma Vihari: Vihari, in so many ways, is a curious case. He was thrown into the middle-order in England where he scored a fifty and was asked to open the batting in Australia where his short-ball weaknesses were badly exposed. Last week, he was picked ahead of senior players expected to carry a fair share of the bowling workload, and yet he only bowled all of two overs in the whole match. However, he looked solid with the bat (32 and 93) and will look to build on that second innings score to maybe notch up his maiden Test ton.
Wriddhiman Saha:Rishabh Pant has played in all matches across all formats, failing to impress on all occasions but once. Not that Pant has already run out of chances to cement his place as MS Dhoni’s long-term successor, but Saha has done very well with the India ‘A’ side that toured West Indies prior to the main team and no one will argue that he is the better of the two behind the stumps. So, this only fair reward for a hard-working man, as well as a learning curve to the junior.
Ravichandran Ashwin: If anything was obvious from the team for the first Test, it is this: the days when India played two specialist spinners abroad are long gone – unless it’s a match at Galle, in Sri Lanka. Ashwin was almost certain to play at Antigua, but India went with Jadeja instead. The left-hander scored a fifty and picked up two wickets in the first half of the match, but found himself at the receiving end of some brutal hitting by Kemar Roach on Day 4. Perhaps he is due for a break, and Ashwin can fill in – with both bat and ball.
Ishant Sharma: He was excellent in England, good in Australia, and he certainly wreaked havoc in the first Test in the Caribbean. Many will talk about Jasprit Bumrah’s magical spell in the second innings, but Ishant came away as the top wicket-taker in the match with eight wickets, including a five-fer. By age and experience, he is truly India’s leader with the ball in whites, and come Friday, the lanky fast bowler will look to cap off his tour in style.
Umesh Yadav: No, Mohammed Shami did not do much deserving of his omission from the lineup. But, Shami has had a long summer – first the World Cup, then the ODIs against West Indies, and now the Tests. Perhaps it is time to balance the workload and bring in Umesh, who hasn’t played since the tour of Australia. That he is fit and raring to go was on display in the practice match, where he picked up three for 19 from 10 overs.
Jasprit Bumrah: Despite other stand-out individual performances, it was Bumrah who stole all the limelight, come the end of the first Test. As they say, there is nothing quite like a fast-bowler at his menacing best – Shai Hope or any of the other three batsmen who were clean bowled by the Indian will say their amens to that. South Africa, England, Australia, and now the West Indies – nothing has stood in the way of Bumrah. The same goes for Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.
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