Ajinkya Rahane will be aiming to pile on the runs and lead India to a series sweep against a feeble 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 said it will be a big occasion, his team will be expected to dominate the West Indies like it did in the series opener in Dominica.
After the game at the Queen’s Park Oval, India plays its next Test only on the tour of South Africa in December-January, leaving the likes of Rahane one more opportunity to make it extremely hard for selectors to overlook 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 the stand-out India batter. But, he would be ruing the missed opportunity on a slow and turning pitch in Dominica, where the visitors needed to bat only once.
There is a strong chance that India will again bat only once and Rahane will need to make it count with Shreyas Iyer, who is undergoing rehab after a back surgery, expected to be available for the South Africa tour.
Batting coach Vikram Rathour said in the lead up to the game that India would need an in-form Rahane for the South African sojourn.
“When it comes to technique, you constantly work on that, but what stood out for me was 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. Conditions in South Africa, you will need somebody like him to come good,” 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 opportunity.
The 31-year-old, who featured in only his third Test in 13 years, was the lone Indian bowler who did not pick a wicket in Dominica and bowled only nine overs.
India spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja made merry on a track offering turn in the series opener and another turner is on the cards with the West Indies replacing batting all-rounder Ramon Reifer with spin all-rounder Kevin Sinclair.
If that is indeed the case, India will be tempted to play another spinner in Axar Patel at Unadkat’s expense.
Shardul Thakur can also be benched to accommodate Axar, whose batting has improved by leaps and bounds in the last 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 only last 11 balls after dropping to number three and he will be itching to go out in the middle.
Virat Kohli, who has not made an overseas Test hundred since December 2018, also will be eyeing a big knock after a dogged 76 in the opener.
After taking 20 balls for his first run in Test cricket, Ishan Kishan would be eagerly waiting for his chance in the middle after impressing the skipper with his keeping skills against Ashwin and Jadeja on his debut.
Barring debutant Alick Athanaze, none of the West Indies batters were comfortable against high quality spin and are likely to struggle if the ball turns as much as it did in Dominica.
West Indies might be better off with a pitch that aids fast bowling, bringing Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph in the game.
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