R Ashwin, whose 5 for 62 helped India dismiss West Indies for 196 on the opening day of the second Test at Sabina Park, said he was "pretty surprised" by Jason Holder's decision to bat first. Speaking to the media after India had moved to 126 for 1 in their reply at stumps, Ashwin said the pitch was a "bit sticky" early on, and that it might have suited West Indies' strengths more to bowl first.
"I was pretty surprised that they won the toss and batted first today," Ashwin said. "Like Virat mentioned at the toss, there was a bit in it, it was a bit sticky. Maybe I would've batted as well. But with their strengths, I thought it was a bit surprising."
Despite India ending the day on top, Ashwin cautioned that there was a long way still to go in the match. "I was really taken aback by the counterattack that [Jermaine] Blackwood did," he said. "It sort of put the game in the balance. And we had to break [through] twice and brought the game back. It's clearly a game where the experienced side is seizing the more opportune moments. I would put it that way. With a little bit of experience and nailing the right moments, the game could get closer.
"This game has a lot of uncertainties. We just saw one when Sri Lanka pulled it off against Australia [in the Pallekele Test]. And they did the same against us in Galle [in 2015], so we can't be lacklustre with that, we will have to keep doing our process properly."
Ashwin said his variations of pace had been key to picking up five wickets on a damp first-day pitch.
"A little bit of bounce and speed variation, that was important, I thought. Most of the dismissals were brought about by difference in speeds rather than much of spin, actually. It was initially damp and there was some turn, but after that it flattened out a bit and started going straight. This ball, once it gets older, it becomes easier to bat. There's a lot more time. I think it was more about bounce and speed variation that created the problem."
Playing only his 34th Test match, Ashwin has already picked up his 18th five-wicket haul. At this moment, his rate of taking five-fors is even better than that of Muttiah Muralitharan, who picked up 67 in 133 Tests.
"Everybody wants to start playing cricket one day to achieve what nobody else could achieve," Ashwin said. "I am happy to be there, at some stage of my career where I am better than everybody else who has played the game. It feels nice, but the only thing that is constant is trying to improve from wherever you are. I think change is very very important. Keeping on benchmarking yourself is more important. This is good, but tomorrow is a different day and you have to keep improving."
Coming in for the injured M Vijay, KL Rahul got India off to a near-perfect start to their reply, and ended the day batting on 75. Ashwin wasn't surprised by his performance, and said he had nicknamed him 'batting machine' for the amount of batting he does in training.
"We all know that he's a quality cricketer," Ashwin said. "He's made a lot of runs in first-class cricket. He has pretty much arrived at this level.
"Beforehand, when he made hundreds for us, it has been crucial knocks. He made one in Sri Lanka which is very very memorable. As a matter of fact, the way he played in the IPL, it's just an extension. Everybody wants Rahul to do well, which is a big tick for him.
"I've nicknamed him batting machine. He keeps batting all the time and it's not a surprise that he's made runs and I'm very happy for him."