India look to extend stranglehold over West Indies in first Test


India look to extend stranglehold over West Indies in first Test

Thursday, August 22, 2019

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Antigua and Barbuda (AFP) — India look set to extend their dominance over West Indies when the first match of a two-Test series starts at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here today.

Having swept the Twenty20 series 3-0 and taken the One-Day International (ODI) contest 2-0, Virat Kohli's India are bursting with confidence going into their first Test match since the historic series triumph in Australia at the start of the year.

In contrast, the West Indies have gone off the boil since dominating England during the home series in the Caribbean six months ago and then going toe-to-toe with the same opponents in the subsequent ODI series.

A whitewash in the tour-ending T20 skirmish, followed by the removal of controversial Head Coach Richard Pybus and a disappointing World Cup campaign has left Jason Holder's men with much lost ground to reclaim.

And on the evidence of the limited-over leg of India's visit, and especially Kohli's irresistible form with the bat, it will be asking a lot of the West Indies to get the better of the tourists and claim a first Test match victory over India in more than 17 years.

However, if the home team can recapture the Holder-inspired dominance of England achieved earlier this year, there is hope that they will be able to match up to an Indian team well-prepared for the longer version of the game.

For India, Chesteshwar Pujara, who reeled off three centuries during the four Tests in Australia, has already picked up from where he left off down under in notching up three figures in the lone warm-up fixture against a regional representative team last weekend.

Helpful conditions

It remains to be seen whether selectors will include Rohit Sharma — a fixture at the top of the order in limited-over matches — in the middle order, and whether the exciting young talent of Rishabh Pant will keep experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha in the dressing room.

Spinner Ravi Ashwin, Man of the Series when India dominated the home side in the Caribbean three years ago, could find himself on the sidelines with Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav — seen as the prime contenders for the specialist spinner's role.

A change of policy in preparation has seen the pitch in Antigua, and indeed all Test match venues in the Caribbean, being more fast bowler-friendly since the start of last year.

That could favour the visitors who have a trio in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma very capable of exploiting helpful conditions.

Not that the West Indies will be daunted by that prospect, for in Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Holder they have the firepower to challenge India's vaunted batting line-up, as the English found to their cost in February.

However, the outcome of the first Test could ultimately hinge on batting, and whether the West Indies can defy a determined, world-class bowling attack to post competitive totals.

West Indies yesterday were forced to call up seamer Miguel Cummins to replace explosive 21-year-old all-rounder Keemo Paul, who has an ankle injury.

Cummins, 28, made his debut three years ago against India in Jamaica. He had a memorable second match in Saint Lucia when he had match figures of 9-102, including a career-best 6-48 in the second innings.

“With Keemo ruled out for this match, it's good to have someone with Miguel's quality back in the squad, as he brings experience to the team,” said Floyd Reifer, the interim head coach of the West Indies,

“He's a very hard worker and a wicket-taker. I'm sure, if given the opportunity to play, he will make a valuable contribution in our bid to win this series.”

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