'Going to be a long struggle' for West Indies bowlers
In the absence of Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach, West Indies' long-time new-ball pair, their fast bowlers are still "learning the art", their bowling coach Roddy Estwick said after the second day's play of the Antigua Test. With their captain Virat Kohli moving to his maiden double-hundred, India swelled their overnight score by 264 runs before declaring on 566 for 8. Having experienced another punishing day on the field, West Indies were 31 for 1 at stumps.
"Yes, obviously it is a good wicket for batting but also we must bear in mind that as a bowling attack we have lost Jerome Taylor to retirement and we have lost Kemar Roach, who has not been selected, and when you look at our bowling attack, between them it is about 40-45 Tests," Estwick said. "So the current bowlers are still learning the art of fast bowling and trying to get the combinations right. So it is going to be a long struggle.
"And remember that India are a very good batting side as well. So it will be a tough series for us and we will continue to work hard and continue to stay disciplined and try and stay focussed as possible."
India went into the Test match with only five specialist batsmen, but that did not hurt them even after they had lost their first four wickets with only 236 on the board. R Ashwin, batting as high as No. 6 for the first time in his career, scored his third Test hundred, and Wriddhiman Saha, Amit Mishra and Mohammed Shami all made important contributions as well. Estwick said the success of the lower order came from the lack of scoreboard pressure rather than any failings on his bowling unit's part.
"It is a very good batting pitch and when you get to 400 for 4, the batsmen can come out and play freely, the tailenders can come and play freely, it is a big difference from if you are 50 for4, then the ball game changes. But when you get to that total and you have the license to go and play shots, obviously declaration is going to come. So there is no pressure on their batsmen at all. Hopefully we will see down the series what happens when they are under pressure."
West Indies chose a seemingly conservative bowling combination for the Test, picking only one frontline fast bowler in Shannon Gabriel, one specialist spinner, and two medium-paced allrounders in Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite in support. Apart from Gabriel, West Indies' bowlers largely bowled defensive lines to defensive fields.
Estwick refused to comment on the composition of the attack, saying he "had no say in selection", and said West Indies had no option but to try and contain given how Kohli was batting.
"Once Kohli was at the wicket, it was very difficult to attack," Estwick said. "If you look at how he was playing, he was scoring at a run a ball and scoring freely. With containing you have a job to do and [offspinning allrounder Roston] Chase is in his first Test match, Carlos Brathwaite who has only played three Tests, Holder in his 15thTest.
"We are still learning as young players. I heard a couple of weeks ago England lamenting the loss of Jimmy Anderson [to injury, against Pakistan], yet they have Stuart Broad with 99 Tests. So with a bowling unit it takes time and you have to be patient with a very young attack. And we are playing against a very good Indian batting line up on a pitch that is very good as well."
With West Indies facing a difficult task to save the follow-on before they can set their sights any higher, Estwick said someone in the top order had to emulate Kohli and play a big innings.
"It is a simple thing," he said. "We have to bat very well and bat deep into the fourth day and if we can do that, until just after tea on the fourth day, that will give us a chance of saving the game. But the first thing to do is avoid the follow-on and somebody in the top four will have to get a very big hundred like Kohli who got 200.
"So it is important that one of the batsmen says, 'Look, this is a good pitch, and I am going to capitalise here, and if they can come to our backyard and do it, we can do it as well.'"
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo