Showdown at Sabina Park
The West Indies will attempt to level their four-match series against India when the two meet at Sabina Park in the second Test of the Seagram's Royal Stag Cup.
Scheduled for a 10 a.m. start, the encounter will see the Jason Holder-led West Indies looking to bounce back from their big innings and 92-run defeat against the tourists in Antigua and Barbuda.
Back then, a wonderful batting performance, led by captain, Virat Kohli, who slammed a double century, piloted India to 566 for eight declared.
The West Indies were thereafter blown away for 243 and 231.
"We are just one down, with three matches to go," said an optimistic Holder shortly after the team's final training session yesterday.
"It's therefore for us to make continuous improvements going forward, and I have no doubt that we can do it," he declared.
The West Indies, who have not defeated the Indians in a Test series in more than a decade, are again set to enter the showdown with Marlon Samuels, their leading batsman, and Darren Bravo and opener Kraig Brathwaite, their next best.
Filling the other three batting positions could provide some problems for the selectors.
At the top of the order is 26-year-old Guyanese batsman Rajendra Chandrika made 16 and 31 in the first Test, and after similar scores of 25 and 37 in his previous Test against Australia late last year, his spot could come into question.
The same could also be said of another young batsman, 24-year-old Jamaican Jermaine Blackwood, who, batting at number five in the order, bagged a pair in the first Test for a tally of four such scores in his last seven innings.
The other batting position, in the meanwhile, is that of the number six position, which in the first Test, was occupied by another 24-year-old, Barbadian Royston Chase.
He made 23 and eight in what was his debut showing to go along with his part-time off-spin, which yielded figures of none for 102.
The selectors could opt for Guyanese Leon Johnson, who made the most runs in the recently concluded regional four-day first-class tournament.
Then there is the problem of taking wickets, which proved quite burdensome in Antigua to the two specialist bowlers, fastman Shannon Gabriel and leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo, and bowling all-rounders Holder and Carlos Brathwaite.
The selectors may consider bringing in one of their two reserve fast bowlers and promoting Carlos Brathwaite to the number six batting position given that he has performed with the bat, and this has yielded three half-centuries in his three Test matches to date.
The match pitch has a fair amount of grass, and back-up fast bowlers Barbadian Miguel Cummins and Antigua's 19-year-old Alzarri Joseph, a standout for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League Twenty20, could use this to their advantage.
"We need to see the pitch tomorrow one more time before making a final decision as to what the starting eleven will be like," stated Holder.
"So far, it appears to be a grassy wicket, which should offer a lot of bounce and carry, and if that is the case, it is something we would like to exploit."
The Indians, meanwhile, are set to make at least one change to their starting team following the omission of batsman Murali Vijay due to a thumb injury he picked up in the first Test.
"It's difficult to change a winning team as in the first Test we got it right in a lot of departments," noted Kohli as it relates to other potential changes.
"The pitch has a fair amount of grass and should provide good bounce to their fast bowlers as well as our fast bowlers," he said, while pointing out that they are likely to stick with those who gave them the result they wanted in the first Test.
WEST INDIES (from): Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajendra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Leon Johnson, Carlos Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Alzarri Joseph, Devendra Bishoo.
INDIA (from): Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravi Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.