West Indies’ Alick Athanaze trains a day before the 2nd Test match between West Indies and India at Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on July 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP
Ajinkya Rahane will aim to pile on the runs to extend his international career and lead India to a series sweep against a weak West Indies when the second and final Test begins here on Thursday.
The game will mark the 100th Test between the two teams and though India skipper Rohit Sharma says it is a big occasion, his team is expected to dominate the West Indies just like it did in the series opener in Dominica.
After the game at Queen’s Park Oval, India play their next Test on the only tour in South Africa in December-January, leaving the likes of Rahane another opportunity to make it very difficult for the selectors to ignore him for the away series against the Proteas.
In his first Test in 18 months, which happened to be the World Test Championships final last month, Rahane was India’s standout batsman but he will rue the missed opportunity on a slow and winding pitch in Dominica if where visitors only need to hit.
There is a good chance that India will bat just once again and Rahane will have to make it count with Shreyas Iyer, who is undergoing rehab after back surgery, expected to be available for the South Africa tour.
Batting coach Vikram Rathour said ahead of the game that India will need an in-form Rahane for the South African sojourn.
“When it comes to technique, you always do that but what stood out for me that he was much more calm in his approach. He was playing late and close to the body. He is still batting the same way in the nets.
“We hope he will do well. South African conditions, you need someone like him to do well,” Rathour said ahead of the second Test.
Following an innings and 141-run victory in three days, no major changes are expected in the playing eleven but it remains to be seen if left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat gets another chance.
The 31-year-old, featuring in just his third Test in 13 years, was the only Indian bowler not to pick a wicket in Dominica and bowled just nine overs.
The India spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja enjoyed a track that offered a turn in the series opener and another turner was on the cards with West Indies replacing batting all-rounder Ramon Reifer with spin all-rounder Kevin Sinclair.
If that is the case, India will be tempted to play another spinner in Axar Patel at Unadkat’s expense.
Shardul Thakur could also be benched to accommodate Axar, whose batting has improved rapidly over the past 12 months.
Yashasvi Jaiswal, who became only the third Indian to score 150 on his debut, will be looking to extend his purple patch. Shubman Gill could last just 11 balls after dropping himself at number three and he was itching to get out in the middle.
Virat Kohli, who has not made an overseas Test hundred since December 2018, will also be looking for a big knock after a solid 76 in the opener.
After taking 20 balls for his first run in Test cricket, Ishan Kishan will eagerly await his chance in the middle after impressing the skipper with his retention skills against Ashwin and Jadeja on his debut.
With the exception of debutant Alick Athanaze, none of the West Indies batters are comfortable against high-quality spin and are likely to struggle if the ball spins as it did in Dominica.
West Indies could do better with a pitch that favors fast bowling, bringing Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph into the game. That was the only way they could put pressure on the Indian batting line up.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), KS Bharat (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur , Mohd Axar Patel. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Navdeep Saini.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Alick Athanaze, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva (wicket-keeper), Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kirk McKenzie, Kevin Sinclair, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican.