Indian pacer Mohammad Siraj is confident that spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will hold the bat for West Indies on the final day of the second Test in Port of Spain on Monday and help the visitors sweep the two-match series. Set a target of 365 for the hosts to level the series, West Indies were 76/2 at the end of day four. Veteran spinner Ashwin took two wickets on Sunday. The Caribbean team needed 289 runs to achieve an improbable victory on Monday, aided by the spinners’ wickets.
After India declared their innings at 181/2 and dismissed the dangerous West Indies skipper Craig Brathwaite and Kirk McKenzie, I feel Ashwin will run through the West Indies batting and turn the ball,” Siraj said at the end of the day.
Siraj revealed that India’s strategy is to bat aggressively in the second innings and give the hosts a big target quickly.
India batting especially, Ishan Kishan played T20 style cricket and scored 52 runs off just 34 balls.
“Yes, Ishan is an aggressive batsman. Rishabh Pant is not there, so as a wicketkeeper, he (Ishan) can compensate for the loss of the ball to some extent, though not completely.
“He has the ability to hit the ball long and hard. He has the ability to hit it around the ground. We had enough runs (first innings lead) on the board, so our plan was to score that much (runs in the second innings) in a short period of time and then (after declaration), we can get more overs to bowl out West Indies.” Siraj took five wickets in the first innings, which helped India bowl out West Indies for 255 runs in reply to the visitors’ 438. Siraj said it was not easy to bowl relentlessly in these conditions.
“I would rate my performance very high as it is not easy to take five wickets on a flat wicket. I had a plan, especially when the ball started to reverse swing, I executed my line and length perfectly.
“My plan was simple… As the ball wasn’t doing much, I kept it stump-to-stump and made a few seams,” he added.
He added that bowling was not easy in the hot and humid conditions interrupted by occasional rain.
“When you’re throwing long spells in this heat and humidity, it’s not easy. Then the intermittent rain and getting hot again and again after each rain break was very challenging.” Siraj added that he is proud to have become the backbone of the Indian pace bowling unit in two-and-a-half years.
With Jasprit Bumrah recovering from a back injury and Mohammad Shami being rested for the West Indies series, the pressure is on Siraj to deliver and the 29-year-old pacer did not disappoint.
“Honestly, when I get a responsibility, when (the senior) is not there, I feel very happy. When I have the responsibility on my shoulders, I like it a lot and I like to take challenges,” Siraj said.
Pacer Mukesh Kumar has bowled 23 overs and taken two wickets so far on his debut, and the 29-year-old bowler has easily adapted to the flat track here as he has bowled extensively on respectable wickets in domestic cricket.
“Mukesh is not a new player. He plays Ranji Trophy regularly and bowls on difficult wickets. It is not easy to get a wicket in Ranji Trophy which has flat wickets than Port of Spain wickets.
“It’s a big achievement to perform in domestic cricket and then to come here and control your nerves is not easy. He is playing his first match for India, that too a Test, he bowls long spells,” Siraj added.
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