India’s current 5-bowler strategy in test cricket makes it difficult for batsmen to earn the remaining few spots. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane cannot be dropped and there must be a wicketkeeper. That leaves room for only three other batsmen. By coming up with a solid century performance, Lokesh Rahul consolidated his position as one such batsman. Shikhar Dhawan is showing improvement as a test opener by curbing his tendencies of chasing away-swinging balls and may continue in that position for a while. That only means that Cheteshwar Pujara has severely hurt his chances of continuing in the test side by sharply bringing down the rate of scoring on the second day at Sabina Park, Kingston. No sooner Murali Vijay recovers from his injury, he will walk into the test team at Pujara’s expense. The Saurashtra batsman followed up his first test’s crawl of 16 runs in 67 balls with another innings at the snail’s pace. He took 159 balls for a mere 46 runs. Those 113 blank deliveries or nearly 19 un-scored overs allowed India only 232 runs on second day. These days, test cricket has become much faster and a score of 300 per day is normal. This is evidenced by West Indies and India together scoring 322 runs on the first day. If not for Pujara’s super-slow slogging, India should have been leading by over 250 runs at the end of the second day.
India did pretty well on the first day of the Jamaica’s second test in bowling out the West Indies batsmen for 196 and scoring 126/1 in the 37 overs that remained until close. Lokesh Rahul had come in place of the injured Murali Vijay and added 87 for the first wicket with Shikhar Dhawan. Rahul played an impeccable innings devoid of any flaws while also respecting good deliveries. But after Dhawan fell in the 20th over; the last 105 balls yielded only 39 runs, thanks to an overcautious Cheteshwar Pujara. Everyone thought that the batsmen didn’t want to lose any further wicket on the day and therefore not much credence was attached to Pujara’s 57-ball 18 not out.
On second day, while Rahul carried on from where he left overnight and duly notched up his third test hundred, Pujara continued to be a bundle of nerves. He defended even the seeming lolly-pops and wasted another 102 balls in adding just 28 runs. The Indian camp would have heaved a sigh of relief on his dismissal since the rate of scoring had sharply come down during Pujara’s stay at the crease. His running himself out was as strange as his innings. He tucked away a legside ball from Jason Holder and started off for a single rather slowly. Roston Chase was the fielder at widish square-leg and his throw came earlier at the non-striker’s end than Pujara’s diving effort to save himself. Captain Kohli joined Rahul and the two added 69 runs before Rahul’s fine innings ended at 158. Soon Kohli also fell 6 runs short of his half century. New batsman Ravichandran Ashwin, who was India’s chief architect in restricting the West Indian, could only score 3 runs off 22 balls before being trapped by Devendra Bishoo. Despite the rather slow rate of scoring, second day ended well for India at 358/5 and they led West Indies by 162 runs with 5 wickets still intact.
The day, however, belonged to Lokesh Rahul, whose flawless innings is chiefly responsible for India shooting to a healthy lead with three days still left in the test match. There were contributions from almost every top batsman, although none of them could reach the half century mark. Ajinkya Rahane is still at the crease and he can widen the lead further on the third day. If that happens, West Indies could lose another test against India to bring even more cheer for the debut coach Anil Kumble, who already has had a dream start at Antigua.