India look to finish the job in 2nd Test against West Indies | Crickit
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India look to finish the job in 2nd Test against West Indies

By, Mumbai
Jul 20, 2023 07:55 AM IST

After winning the first Test easily, Sharma and Co will be the overwhelming favourites to bag the second Test and complete a series sweep

India are set to face West Indies in the second and final Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, in what will be a momentous match irrespective of the result. It will be the 100th time the two teams will be clashing in the longest format and the visitors will be determined to claim the series after their triumph in the opener.

India's Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal during Day 2 of the 1st Test match against West Indies(BCCI Twitter)
India's Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal during Day 2 of the 1st Test match against West Indies(BCCI Twitter)

Having faced each other in Test cricket for the first time back in 1948, it was the Windies who remained undefeated and dominated the rivalry for the first couple of decades. In terms of the overall head-to-head record, they still have more wins than India – 30 compared to 23 in 99 Tests.

However, as glorious as West Indies’ past was, there’s no denying that they’re in a state of deep turmoil at the moment. After missing out on qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup, Kraigg Brathwaite and Co lost by an innings and 141 runs in the first Test against India. West Indies had got three wins and two draws in their last five Tests at home, which earned them 1-0 and 2-0 series victories against England and Bangladesh respectively, but that was over a year ago and their recent outing against Rohit Sharma’s side would’ve deflated their supporters.

India will be the overwhelming favourites to bag the second Test and complete a series sweep after R Ashwin and Yashasvi Jaiswal powered them to a thumping win in Dominica. West Indies lost 20 wickets for a total of 280 runs in that match, while India batted only once and declared at 421/5.

It was a considerable mismatch and the onus is now on the hosts to respond. As was made evident by Ashwin’s match haul of 12 wickets, the pitch in the first Test favoured spin heavily. For the second Test, rain is forecast for all five days and it won’t come as a surprise if the pitch is more suited for fast bowlers.

“It’s an honour for me to be leading India in this historic 100th Test against West Indies,” India captain Sharma told reporters. “Yes, there’s a big question mark in terms of the weather but it’s important for us to focus on how we can do well in the game. West Indies have a very good team and I’m sure they will bounce back.”

As far as India are concerned, skipper Sharma said there’s unlikely to be “any drastic change” to the playing XI after both Jaiswal and Ishan Kishan impressed in their debut Test. Jaiswal, in particular, was brilliant as he scored 171 runs to claim the player of the match award. The 21-year-old left-hander is looked at as a long-term prospect for the opening slot and his start has surely raised expectations even further.

Kishan, meanwhile, didn’t get to bat much in the first Test (he remained unbeaten on 1 off 20 balls) but did well with the gloves after replacing KS Bharat in the side.

“Ishan is a very talented guy,” said Sharma. “We’ve seen it in his short international career so far, he even hit an ODI double-century recently. So, the talent is there and we just have to bring it out by giving him opportunities. I’ve spoken with him clearly about how he is expected to play and given him full freedom to express himself.”

He added: “Considering it was his first Test match, he kept really, really well. On a pitch where it was turning, bouncing and staying low, it wasn’t easy to keep against Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja. So, I was very impressed by his wicket-keeping skills.”

On a surprisingly friendly pitch, India cruised to victory in the opener but things could get interesting if the Trinidad pitch offers more juice for the fast bowlers. India’s struggle over the years against pace and swing is no secret and in helpful conditions, one can expect Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and Co to test the visiting batters and produce more of a contest for those watching.

“All our players understand the importance of this match,” said Sharma as India aim to begin the new World Test Championship cycle with a series win. “Once you get into the game, it’s all about getting the job done for the team and that is what everyone is focussed on.”

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