India captain Virat Kohli hinted at keeping the winning combination going into the second Test at the Sabina Park on Saturday. The only change to the team would be KL Rahul who replaces Murali Vijay who is yet to recover from a thumb injury sustained in Antigua. If Kohli walks his talk, the rest of the team should be the same as India are not being swayed by the ‘horses for courses’ talk going about on the South Camp Road that winds past Sabina Park. Kohli’s logic is simple --- the pitch might offer pace and bounce in the first two days but it is bound to even out after that. Dropping a spinner could boomerang in that case.
“Honestly, there’s not much room to change when you have won the first game knowing that the fast bowlers have done the job,” he said. “There’s good bounce in this wicket. The last time we played a Test here, in 2011, (Amit) Mishra and Harbhajan (Singh) both got good turn and bounce. So a spinner can’t be left out of the game,” said Kohli after India’s training on Friday.
While the pitch might have stoked anticipation that pacers will reap dividends here, West Indies captain Jason Holder was not too sure about that. “Previously there was grass but the pitch still ended up being on the slower side. It’s difficult really to predict how the pitch will play here in Jamaica,” said Holder. Kohli too thinks on similar lines, only he has a better bowling attack than the West Indies, one that is equipped to bowl on different surfaces and take 20 wickets.
“There is a second innings as well, we need to understand that. It’s not overcast conditions and a green pitch where you will compromise on one spinner. You know that when the wicket dries up it will start turning and there is good bounce so the spinners will come into play. Like they did in the last game also, spinners can play a massive role,” said Kohli.
“I think the roles will switch pretty drastically with each innings, that’s what I feel, for all bowlers, and for that we have to have all bases covered for us to have enough options to take 10 wickets in the second innings also. We need to have a good balance of spinners and fast bowlers for us to get a result,” he said.
The fact that Jamaica has produced results in the last 15 Tests it has hosted makes Kohli excited to be playing at a result-oriented ground. “We are happy that the wicket is going to have some bounce and carry. There was decent enough bounce in Antigua for us to exploit whatever help was there. Jamaica is going to be even better, it’s a result-oriented ground, we all know that. We’re quite excited about it. We’ve got good pace, the bowlers are bowling good areas. We’d just like to focus on that and believe that are batsmen are good enough to tackle any pace and bounce that West Indies’ bowlers have,” he said.
If Kohli sticks to five specialist bowlers, it again means the top five have to come good with the bat. Rahul’s inclusion is good news given the kind of season he has had. “He scored runs in the practice games, he scored in Zimbabwe. He had a great IPL season. I think that was the turnaround for confidence as far as he’s concerned. It’s more a case of a guy waiting for an opportunity. You can see that with him. You can sense it. He wants to play. He’s batting really well. He wants to make it count,” said Kohli.
“All in all, he’s a great package for the team and it’s great to see that he’s going to get a Test match. Obviously, unfortunately, Vijay has to miss out because of injury. Not good for him. He’s someone who has always done well for the team, always takes pride in playing for the country. He was not really happy with getting hit in the first innings, which is not in his control.”