Ashwin ends a bloodline, Athanaze's strong start and the hoiks of Kraigg

India well on top on day one of this two Test series.

The ding dong at Dominica as no one will call it. A pitch with some bounce for the quicks and some spin for the tweakers. It’s a tough one for the West Indies from here. I meant it was tough coming in since any form or talent they have with them seems to disappear once they play India. But having spin and bounce certainly helped the Indians.

Ravi Ashwin returns after WTC final snub

After being dropped for the WTC final Ashwin was back. He was dropped from the 2019 tour altogether. So him just playing was a big deal. That the best spinner in the world can’t get in his own team is its own vibe.

But he dismisses Tagenarine Chanderpaul with a similar delivery to the one he bowled to Cook in Edgbaston 2018. Floated in, straightened, and good luck being a left-hander to a ball like this. But more importantly, he joined one of the most elite clubs in cricket, the father/son dismissed. This is actually his fifth match in a row of dismissing a Chandrepaul when one was available to him.

So not only is Ashwin hunting left-handers, he’s now trying to end their bloodline.

The Chanderpaul wicket also puts him in the elite company of people who have dismissed father and son, Botham, Wasim, Mitch Starc and who? Simon Harmer.

He has only played 10 Tests, the rest of these guys have played over generations and will go down in many record books. Harmer has been off on gap years tormenting county players most of the time. He has 39 wickets, 37 of which are not related to each other.

India’s MVP - Ravindra Jadeja

Ravi Jadeja did what he does best - take a bunch of wickets and keep things tight. He went at less than 2 runs per over and bowled 7 maidens. Although it took a blinder from Siraj to get Blackwood, he still managed to induce a false shot from the West Indian mainstay just before lunch.

In a 40-ball stretch post-lunch, he gave away just 3 runs and dismissed Da Silva by deceiving him with a straighter line and a bit of extra bounce. He also took Roach’s wicket and cleaned up the tail. He can hang around sometimes - ask Pakistan fans about it.

Kraigg Brathwaite’s hoik to leg

I have covered Kraigg Brathwaite for a very long time. Sometimes it feels like a very long time just when he is batting.

Since making his debut, no one else has scored 3000 runs this slow. That is partly because Dom Sibley never made that many. For over a decade, Brathwaite has been like a rock, blunting the new ball one nudge at a time. That is the same against pace and spin. Slow.

I have looked at him playing club and school cricket, he played the exact same way. From a young age, he has never been someone who played big shots.

But when off-spin is bowled to him there is a slight difference. He will still do all the blocking and the nudging, but then an hour in, he’ll just try to swipe one over cow corner. It’s not a slog sweep, it’s more of a slog.

If you look at his average by the zone of ground, you can see that the only place he averages less than midwicket is when he’s caught at slip. But he’s been caught there four times, he’s been dismissed seven times at midwicket.

The problem with his shot is it’s a low percentage shot he plays poorly. But the weirdest thing is it seems to come from boredom. Yet I only see him play this against offies.

His strike rate doesn’t really show that he likes attacking offies. And most of the time he doesn’t, until out of nowhere tries to smack the ball across the line like a madman.

Today he wasn’t caught out at deep midwicket, he actually edged it straight up, and he gave Ashwin a very easy wicket.

Jaiswal and Athanaze scouting report

Alick Athanaze is not just an alliterative name. He’s also a very decent graceful lefty with the bat. He didn’t move his feet a lot but had excellent balance. Seemed to want to score from the quicks through backward point or cover. I wonder how that will go when bowlers come around the wicket to him a lot. Though, today, it seemed like he was handling that ok.

But it didn’t look like he had a lot of ways to score off the quicks. For the spinners, he has a few options, again through the covers.

However, there were three boundaries to the sweep. There is no doubt he’s a sweeper. India did the new trend we are seeing in Tests, keeping the square leg up. The thinking there is even the better sweepers struggle when trying to overhit the ball to beat the fielder.  But Athanaze played up and under his with ease.

He looked in good control of his game, which considering how everyone else batted and the fact he only made his second first-class hundred a game or so back this was a very good knock. He’s already a captain of Winward Islands, and so clearly there is something about him.

Jaiswal  played a reverse sweep in the final over of the day. There is confidence, and then there is that. He played like he was 75 not out from the moment he got out there. Early on he was a little loose when the ball was moving in the air.

The one time I wasn’t as sure about him was when he took after Rahkeem Cornwall. Considering the spin and bounce was risky. But also Cornwall is not the kind of spinner he would usually face, there aren’t many spinners of his height, and none of them are of his strength, so interesting to see him still go after it. It was only one over, and he changed his plan straight after.

But he got into his innings by leaving the ball. For all the talk of how he is allowed to attack it was the tempo and decision-making in defence that was really impressive.

He milked when he could, hit boundaries when it was in his favour, but was also willing to just wait. Lots of players can attack, the ability to score or not, based on the occasion is what the best players do. There might be a reason his average in first-class cricket is 80.

India’s new-look pace attack

India fielded a pace attack of Bumrah, Ishant and Shami on their previous tour to the West Indies 4 years ago.

With Bumrah injured, Ishant out of favour and Shami rested, they now have Siraj, Unadkat and Thakur - a significant downgrade‌.

They bowled pretty disciplined early on, I was perhaps most interested in Mohammad Siraj’s bouncer spell later. I was wondering if it was partly inspired by the Lord’s Test recently. The fields weren’t fully in, but it was at that later part of the game, and it felt like India just went, let’s see what will happen.

I also just want to mention Shardul Thakur, who by just being on this side weakens it with the ball. He’s not an all-rounder, though his chaotic batting is very handy. But because Ashwin and Jadeja have better batting, it allows him to still be in the side. And there is no problem with him being the fifth-best bowler.

It also allows him to attack more with the ball, which is when he’s at his best. That makes him more dangerous than his pace or overall talent would suggest. He can really pitch the ball up, and give himself a chance of a wicket.

A lot of people call Thakur a golden arm, but I think it’s his free reign to attack that allows some of it. But the other part was on show today. He can bowl a wobbleball, the little black dress of modern seam bowling. On top of that, he can swing the ball, many pacers struggle to do both, but he has no such issue. And he can bowl both off-cutter and leg-cutters at will. Most bowlers can do an off-cutter, but the leg cutter is rare. You throw in a good bouncer and there are a lot of skills there.

He is probably not elite at any one ball, but it’s really rare for a seamer to have this many options they can use in a game.

Ishan Kishan makes his debut

KS Bharat is a very good keeper, but with Rishabh Pant injured, surely it makes a lot more sense to see what Ishan Kishan can do, especially in a lower-stakes game.

Now I do understand why Bharat fans will be upset as he plays the tougher teams. But that is the life of the old understudy. The young shiny thing is always going to get preference. When they think it;s tough, or they want to be sure, the old fella will come back in.

For what it is worth, I thought Ishan took two good catches today. Diving forward of Thakur was a really good take, off the bat I didn’t think he’d get near it. And then the big edge behind from Jadeja. That ball went a long way.