Focus on Pant as India eye another clean sweep
Kingston (Jamaica): Rishabh Pant will be desperate to pay back the faith reposed in him by the team management when India look to steamroll West Indies with another dominant show in the second World Test championship encounter starting on Friday.
Having won the first Test by 318 runs, India are runaway favourites going into the second and final match at the Sabina Park against a team that neither showed the resolve nor the aptitude required to put up a sustained fight in five-day cricket.
"The conditions here are good and the pitch also looks good. We are expecting another good performance," bowling coach Bharath Arun said on Wednesday.
Jasprit Bumrah (match haul of 6 wickets) and Ishant Sharma (8 wickets) exposed the opposition's technical frailties and they will be gunning for more in the second game.
It is unlikely that India will be tinkering with their playing XI after a big win even though Pant's form has been a bit of a concern of late.
More than the runs scored, it is the manner of his dismissals that is causing frustration, considering that the Indian cricket establishment has invested heavily in the 21-year-old from Rourkee.
His sequence of scores across formats during this current tour has been 0, 4, 65 not out, 20, 0, 24, 7.
With veteran Wriddhiman Saha back in the dressing room and the gutsy Kona Bharat waiting in the wings, Pant can ill-afford to take things for granted, especially the kind that one saw in the second innings of the first Test.
The pressure was completely off after India took a handsome lead. What the side required from the flamboyant left-hander was something in the range of a solid 30 not out but what it got instead was another impetuous shot.
The slog sweep has brought about his downfall more often than not and save a fifty in the dead rubber in the T20 series, he has done precious little with the bat.
Opener Mayank Agarwal wasn't in his elements either in the first Test but it is expected that he would get another opportunity, which he rightfully deserves having worked hard in Australia.
The Indian middle-order performed admirably with Ajinkya Rahane back in form with an under-pressure half-century and a century.
Hanuma Vihari also justified his selection with a 93 in the second innings, meaning that Rohit Sharma's wait to make the side could just get a bit longer. However, Agarwal would be on his toes.
He may not get too many opportunities if the team management decides to fit in an impact player like Rohit at the top of the order alongside KL Rahul in the coming Test series against South Africa at home. While Rohit's technique against the moving red ball is a bit suspect but in the sub-continent, he could prove to be a handful. The pace bowling was near flawless in the first game with Ishant and Bumrah looking menacing with five-wicket hauls each. Even Mohammed Shami was very effective in short bursts while Ravindra Jadeja proved his utility as an all-rounder.
"Any seamer are at their best when they are getting wickets. The five-wicket haul for both (Ishant and Bumrah) of them will give them tremendous confidence. Also Shami looked good whenever he was given the ball and it augurs well for the team," Arun said.
For West Indies, there hasn't been much to write home about as none of their players even got a half-century in two innings.
Talented players like Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope didn't measure up while the normally dependable Roston Chase also looked out of sorts in the second innings.
The only saving grace for them was the new ball pair of Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach, who bowled their hearts out without much support from others.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
West Indies: Squad: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rakheem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.
Match Starts at 7 pm IST.