The first Test of the India-West Indies series was on very predictable lines, with India outsmarting the hosts with their strength in both the batting and bowling departments. India will again go into the second Test as favourites, having beaten them at the venue on the last two occasions that the teams met. At the same time, if there is one venue where West Indies can really run India close, it is Jamaica, for it has a lot for the bowlers, and the Windies will look to exploit India’s weakness against the quick bowlers.
From what has been visible so far, the pitch is definitely a green one. And the hosts are very much keen on playing the additional fast bowler in place of a batsman or an all-rounder. Shannon Gabriel was excellent in the first Test, and will be expected to lead the pace attack again. But, there have been strong feelers that Under-19 star Alzarri Joseph will be part of the playing eleven. He cannot be expected to run through India, but can be a good surprise factor. Then there is also Miguel Cummins, who can be drafted in place of either Carlos Brathwaite or Jermaine Blackwood, most probably the latter.
Even as West Indies are seeking changes to their bowling line-up, their experienced batsmen will need to stand up. Again, a lot will depend on the duo of Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo. Both have been inconsistent in spite of the number of Tests they have played. But, on days when they are in full flow, they can be unstoppable. West Indies will hope either one of Samuels or Bravo or, in best case scenario, both fire. Runs will also be expected from the openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Rajendra Chandrika.
India have been dealt a blow of sorts, with opener Murali Vijay being ruled out due to thumb injury, which he sustained on the first morning of the first Test. But, that also gives an opportunity to Lokesh Rahul to come in and make another impression. Shikhar Dhawan did well to keep his place in tact with an assured half-century in the last Test. Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin also shone with the bat, but Cheteshwar Pujara will be under pressure, since he is keeping Rohit Sharma out of the playing eleven. Ajinkya Rahane had a rare failure at Antigua, but in tough batting conditions, he is the go to man for India.
With the pitch likely to assist fast bowling, India will be hoping their pace trio of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav fires. Shami and Yadav did well in the last Test, but Ishant managed only one wicket. All of them have been guilty of being inconsistent in the past, so they will have a point or two to prove. Ashwin and Amit Mishra were highly potent in the first Test, but this match might not offer them as much assistance. So it remains to be seen how they perform at Kingston.
--By A Cricket Analyst