Battle lines drawn
West Indies seek to continue momentum
West Indies will enter Tuesday’s third Test at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium with a stronger line-up than matches played in Antigua and Jamaica and hoping to continue the momentum of the drawn Test at Sabina Park.
Captain Jason Holder has confirmed that talented left-handed Guyanese batsman Leon Johnson will open the innings with Kraigg Brathwaite. Johnson, who averages just under 40 after four Tests, and whose last two Test innings were 54 and 44, has been curiously kept on the sidelines while selectors experimented with his compatriot Rajindra Chandrka.
Chandrika has been a batting failure at the regional level and predictably has proven likewise on the international scene.
“Leon Johnson will open the batting tomorrow. He’s the next opener in the line, so he will come into the squad to replace Chandrika. I wish him the very best, hopefully he’ll get some runs,” Holder told the media in St Lucia today.
There could also be the addition of another fast bowler with either the inclusion of Alzarri Joseph or the recall of Carlos Brathwaite. The latter’s inclusion would also significantly strengthen the hosts’ fragile batting line-up. Holder suggested that the pitch could assist pace and that could influence the look of the bowling attack.
“If you look at the pitch here, there seems to be a little bit of grass. There’s a strong possibility that we may have a change in terms of our bowling department, we may think about the extra seamer. That’s pretty much it. This wicket here, over the years, has played quicker than most pitches in the Caribbean. For me, I think it’s the best cricket pitch in the Caribbean in terms of carry and assistance for the quicker bowlers. So, there’s a strong possibility that you may see an extra seamer,” he said.
Holder also noted that he would like to see more fans come out to support the West Indies but acknowledged that one way to lure them to the Test matches was through better performances.
“I would love for more people to watch cricket. Recently, you see a lot of people coming out to see the T20 and the one-day stuff. You get a bit more party-like atmosphere, a bit more vibrant. For the last, number of years, the crowds for Test cricket have been really, really down. I’ve been trying to scratch my brain to see ways I can suggest how to get more people in to the stands, but I think good performances is one way to get crowds coming back.
“If you look, in England and Australia, they always have people coming out, the die-hard cricket fans, coming out and supporting Test cricket per se. But everywhere else you struggle to get crowds. For me, I just think we just need to perform and if you perform consistently, you get a few more people coming in to support. I wouldn’t know how much more you would have, but I definitely think you will get a few more people coming,” he said.
Meanwhile, India, who lead the four-match series 1-0, seem to have very few worries. A win for them will seal the series and allow them to go to their traditionally favourite hunting ground at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain with no chance of losing the series
India look a well-oiled machine with most departments working the way they want it to. None of the batsmen appears to be struggling for form, while the bowlers, despite the struggle on Day 5 in Jamaica, have been on top for most of the time. In fact, India face a problem of plenty leading up to the third Test. Regular Murali Vijay, if fit, will fight for a spot along with KL Rahul, who hit a fine hundred in Jamaica, and Shikhar Dhawan. Ravindra Jadeja has been warming the benches for both Tests, and could be a viable option should Virat Kohli decide he wants the extra spinner or prefers his extra batting to leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
Teams – India (probable): 1 and 2 M Vijay/KLRahul/Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 R Ashwin, 7 Wriddhiman Saha, 8 Amit Mishra/Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Umesh Yadav/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Ishant Sharma
West Indies (probable): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Leon Johnson, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Jermaine Blackwood, 6 Roston Chase, 7 Shane Dowrich (wk), 8 Jason Holder (capt), 9 Carlos Brathwaite/Alzarri Joseph, 10 Miguel Cummins, 11 Shannon Gabriel.