"Each batter's just got to look at themselves seriously in the mirror, and we've just got to find solutions."
After Jasprit Bumrah sent down the stumps clattering and cartwheeling at Antigua, West Indies captain Jason Holder succinctly put it out that their batsmen need some soul searching.
It was a straightforward assessment. Capitulating to 100 (at one stage they were 50/9) could be a confidence shatterer, especially when you are at least looking to make a statement following ODI and T20I series losses on the tour.
Failure to maintain sustained pressure coupled with batting failure led to West Indies' downfall in the first Test. It also magnified the focus on the shot selection and application. In the first innings, the batsmen tried to apply themselves. They got moderate starts but then threw away their wickets. On a good batting pitch, they gifted their wickets through poor shot selection rather than getting out to unplayable deliveries. With the West Indies batsmen, it seems the adrenaline is always rushing and that is something they need to control.
In the second innings, they encountered a rampaging Bumrah who was making the ball dance devilishly off the pitch and in the air. Yes, some of those deliveries seemed unplayable but as Holder said, they've just got to find the solutions, more so because they are up against one of the best bowling lineups in the world.
Occupation of the crease for longer periods along with the elimination of soft dismissals is the key going into the second Test. The Windies stitched just one 50-run stand, that too arrived for the last wicket between Kemar Roach and Miguel Cummins when the match was long lost. While India had two century stands and three fifty-plus stands. Therein lied the difference.
The likes of Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo haven't lived up to expectations. Hope hasn't scored a century in two years. Hetmyer is still searching for the three figures in Test cricket. Bravo last scored a ton way back in 2016. Windies want their batting to fire collectively. Their batting clicked, especially their top-order in their last series against England which was a crucial support to their revitalised bowling lineup.
Roston Chase will be looking to lead the way in the batting line-up inspired by happy memories of the past. It was his terrific rearguard century that conjured an improbable draw for the Windies when these two sides met at Kingston last time. He had also scalped a five-for in the first innings. The Barbadian averages 69.50 with the bat and 25 with the ball at this venue.
One of the traits that have made India the No. 1 side in Tests is their ability to maintain sustained pressure and stranglehold on the opposition once they are in the ascendancy. It is one thing the Windies need to learn.
After opting to bowl first at North Sound, the hosts reduced India to 25/3 and then 207/7 but then let the foot off the pedal and allowed India to post 297, struggling to get the lower-order out. In the second innings, they had sent back the Indian top-order for 81 and then allowed them to pile on 343/7 before Virat Kohli finally declared.
The two dropped catches of Ajinkya Rahane stung them as much. Kemar Roach's relentless threat kept the Indian batsmen on their toes which is the template the rest of the West Indies bowlers need to follow.
They still have the faith in their batsmen and have opted to make just one change to the squad, bringing in pacer Keemo Paul, who missed out due to ankle injury in the first Test, in place of Miguel Cummins.
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 29, 2019
India wriggled out of tough situations in the North Sound Test and then slowly gained ascendancy which emphasised why they are the best in the world.
The biggest takeaway for them was Rahane's return to form who, despite being slightly lucky, once again reminded of his worth by bringing in a mix of caution and aggression and scoring 183 runs in the match, including a century in the second innings.
While there was much debate about Ravichandran Ashwin not being included in the starting eleven, Ravindra Jadeja vindicated team management's decision with a crucial half-century dragging India out of trouble and then picking up two wickets in the first innings.
After an impressive World Cup showing, Jadeja has momentum on his side and could be the key going into the second Test as well.
While India belted out a comprehensive win in the end at North Sound, they do need to peek into areas of improvement further.
There would be expectations from the top order after it failed to fire in the first Test. KL Rahul got starts but couldn't convert. And, just like the West Indies batsmen, they would look to work on the shot selection with batsmen getting out to soft dismissals. In the absence of Prithvi Shaw, Rahul would look to make most of the opportunities at his doorstep.
The Sabina Park generally assists pace and bounce so it will be interesting to see if both India and West Indies would still be interested in bringing in the extra spinner and leave out a pacer.
Pitch for the 2nd test match tomorrow: India vs West Indies. pic.twitter.com/vTsNCfdnav
— Ian bishop (@irbishi) August 29, 2019
The Indian pace attack will again be the biggest threat for the West Indies batsmen. Ishant Sharma led the way in the first innings with a five-for while Bumrah in the second with staggering figures of 8-4-7-5, Shami played the perfect second fiddle. With the guile, movement and pace of the trio, there is no respite for the batsmen, there is constant pressure which is the beauty of this Indian bowling line-up.
West Indies haven't had a good time at Sabina Park of late with three losses, one draw and one win in their last five Tests. However, Holder will derive inspiration from his heroics the last time he played at the venue where he picked up 11 wickets to guide West Indies to victory against Bangladesh last year.
India have happy memories of this ground. It was at Kingston that they broke the 35-year duck to win their first Test series since 1971 in the Caribbean. It was their first ever win at the venue as well after nine attempts. Five years later, they came back to beat the Windies again. And they were very close to making it three in three in 2016 before Chase's brilliance defied them.
India start off as favourites as they look to garner 120 points from the series while West Indies would hope that the mirror which Holder was talking about, provides them the solution they desperately need.