West Indies face uphill task to save series

West Indies face uphill task to save series

Indian captain Virat Kohli (right) takes a catch during a practice session as KL Rahul looks on in Hyderabad on Thursday. PTI

“The game of cricket happens on the field. It isn’t played in a media room or the dressing room or in the commentary boxes. So I can’t control what’s being said outside. But on the field, we can back ourselves and fight it out,” said a slightly agitated Roston Chase.

The West Indies all-rounder was responding to the talks on his side’s skills to play Test cricket. The visitors’ capitulation in the first Test against India at Rajkot once again raised questions about their temperament for the longer format of the game. 

The contest at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium ended within three days but on the eve of the second and final game here, Chase said his team’s aim will be to learn from its mistakes.

India, on the other hand, will focus again on consolidating their top-order. The retention of the same XII by India on the eve of the match made it clear that the team management is looking at the combination of K L Rahul and Prithvi Shaw as the first choice opening pair for the upcoming series in Australia.

For a batsman with a string of low scores this year, Rahul finds another opportunity to produce a big knock and regain some confidence. Shaw, riding high on a debut Test century, will eye another impressive show against a pace attack that is battling injuries.

With the management deciding not to test Mayank Agarwal, it remains to be seen if the Karnataka batsman will be considered as the third opener for the tour Down Under or Shikhar Dhawan will return to the set up given his experience. There have been such precedents.

India would also want Ajinkya Rahane to get a big score. The Mumbaikar, often squandering starts thanks to soft dismissals, is low on confidence.

On the eve of the game, Kohli called the surface at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium a true pitch. “It’s always going to be a good cricket wicket in Hyderabad. Because of the weather here, the pitch doesn’t wear and tear so much. There’s a decent covering of grass on the pitch, the surface is also hard so if you bowl well you can take wickets and if you bat well you can score runs. That’s always been the true nature of this wicket here,” he said.

The West Indies would be hoping that their pacers Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel, both recovering from injuries, will take the field on Friday. In their batting, the visitors showed recklessness and paid the price against a quality Indian spin attack. If they have to make a match of the second game, a patient approach and partnerships will be key.

Last year, down 0-1, the West Indies had displayed a spirited performance to stun England by five wickets in Leeds. In 2016, a gutsy century from Chase had helped his team pull off an improbable draw against India in Jamaica.  

“It is a similar feeling. Sometimes we have talks in the dressing room and we say that need a bit of a punch for us to fight back. I don’t know about that but we didn’t play well in the first game. We probably had that nervous energy in the first game,” Chase said.

While the intent from the West Indies promises a keen battle, a lot depends on how they walk the talk.