KINGSTON, Jamaica– Six days after a heavy 318-run drubbing in the opening Test, West Indies will try to pick up the pieces and turn the tables on India when the critical second Test bowls off at Sabina Park here today.
Other than optimism, however, there is not much to suggest that West Indies can lift themselves and produce a performance worthy of beating India and levelling the two-match series.
In Antigua last week, their batting left a lot to be desired, folding for 222 and then embarrassingly for 100 – their sixth lowest total ever against the Indians.
And seamer Kemar Roach apart, the Windies attack lacked penetration and India’s second innings of 343 for seven declared was testament to the little threat the bowling carried. But a composed captain Jason Holder assured reporters here yesterday there would be no hangover from the Antigua debacle.
“The guys are really up for it. We were obviously disappointed with the performance in the last game and this is just another opportunity for us to come and level the series,” he said.
“There is no point playing it tentatively or halfheartedly, we’ve got to come and put on a really good show. It’s something we’ve done well in the past, we tend to respond well when we’re under pressure.
“So I expect the guys to be up for this challenge and hope we can play a really good game of cricket.”
A major area of concern remains the Windies batting. Not a single batman managed a half-century in the opening Test, and Roston Chase’s 48 in the first innings was the best effort on show.
Key batsmen are also short of form. Opener and vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, the side’s leading scorer in recent past, averages 13 from his last eight Tests while the stylish Shai Hope, with two centuries in the second Test against England at Leeds two years ago, is averaging 18 also from his last eight Tests.
Experienced left-hander Darren Bravo must also be a major worry. He returned from a 28-month hiatus from the longest format for the England series earlier this year but his four Tests since have yielded an average of 11.
Holder said the batting group had addressed their issue following the first Test and he was expecting them to put more pressure on India’s bowlers this time around.
“We had a really good meeting and it was really about guys just understanding how they’re going to compile an innings,” Holder explained. “I think the starts have been very crucial for us. We’ve been having guys get in and just get out so it’s just a manner for us to stay a little bit longer in our game plans, be a little bit more patient as well and wear the Indian bowlers down.
“We saw a little bit in the second innings that after a spell or two they tend to be a little jaded so we should try and keep them out in the field as long as possible. Here in Jamaica tends to be very hot and humid and the longer we keep them in the field the better off we will be.”
He added: “I think we’ve got to be decisive. Decisive in our footwork, decisive in our shot selection – if you’re going to play or if you’re going to leave and that’s just standard cricket.
“We’ve just got to be more assertive about what we’re looking to do and back our defences, trust the preparation we’ve had … and just try to fight through the tough periods.”
While Roach was outstanding last week, he badly lacked support. Pacer Miguel Cummins, who came in for the injured fast-bowling all-rounder Keemo Paul, has been dropped after a lacklustre showing with the fit-again Paul restored to the squad.
The raging debate surrounds the inclusion of off-spinning all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall who was spurned for the opening Test – a decision which from the outset appeared fraught with peril and was so proven.
Cornwall could now make his debut at Sabina – a venue where he also made his first class debut with a scintillating 94-ball 95 – though Holder hinted at the inclusion of Paul and retaining the four-pronged pace attack.
“That’s (pace) the backbone of the side. We’ve done well with our seamers who are now doing it for us,” Holder pointed out.
“Kemar Roach has been outstanding, Shannon Gabriel has been outstanding and I’ve also been very supportive in the bowling lineup. We’ve depended heavily on our pacers for the last couple years and it’s just a matter for them to continue the outstanding work they’ve been doing.
“Everytime I call on them they just come and give a massive effort and it’s always in a very good cause for the team. Hopefully we can continue to keep our pacers firing and hopefully get 20 wickets in this Test match.”
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope (wkp), Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamarh Brooks, Jahmar Hamilton (wkp), Rahkeem Cornwall, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Keemo Paul.
INDIA – Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wkp) Wriddhiman Saha (wkp), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav.