Indian skipper Virat Kohli began the West Indies Test series with an unbeaten ton on the very first day of the first Test at Antigua. There was plenty of planning in the Indian camp, under new coach Anil Kumble, and Kohli even met Sir Viv Richards, perhaps seeking some hints from him. Whatever was the case, it paid off handsomely as Kohli toyed with the West Indian bowlers, ending the day on an unbeaten 143, with India finishing on an impressive 302 for 4. Opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was under pressure going into the Test, also chipped in with a half-century to aid India's cause.
As predicted in the build up, India went in with five bowlers. And, in another statement of intent, Kohli decided to bat first after calling correctly. The first session was expected to offer some help to the bowlers, and it did. The West Indian fast bowlers kept India under the hook, with Shannon Gabriel constantly troubling them with pace, and skipper Jason Holder and Carlos Braithwaite keeping things extremely tight. The Indian top order was tested to the hilt and it was only after Kohli came in that the shackles were broken. And, once he opened up, the West Indies bowling lost steam.
After India were sent into bat, Murali Vijay was expected to steer India as Dhawan hadn't got a fifty in a while. But, Vijay had a torrid time out in the middle, and was taken out by a potent bouncer from Gabriel, having managed 7 from 26. At the other end, Dhawan also did not look elegant. He top-edged, played and missed numerous times. To his credit, he did not give his wicket away, and also made a concerted effort to not play high-risk strokes, like the pokes outside off stump. He only drove when he was very sure, and his hard work paid off. The same wasn't the case with Cheteshwar Pujara though. He made a strangled 16 from 67 when Devendra Bishoo ended his misery.
The dismissal of Pujara with the score at 74 for 2 proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Indians. Kohli walked in and brought intent right away. He knew that the slog-work had already been done, and he needed to capitalise on the same. Kohli drove with authority from the very beginning, aware of the fact that the ball had stopped moving around. Once he got his eye in, he did did not back down, and kept stroking the ball freely. In his company, Dhawan also grew in confidence. The southpaw brought out the drives in a more assured manner and the late cuts, as West Indies' bowling limitations were exposed. He missed a century though, trapped lbw on the sweep.
The Kohli-Dhawan partnership added 105, and at a brisk pace to put India in command. With the stage set, Ajinkya Rahane came in and batted freely, stroking boundaries at will. But, it was only to be an impressive cameo, as like Pujara, he too feel to the guile of Bishoo, giving the spinner his third scalp of the day. In an interesting move, India sent in Ravichandran Ashwin ahead of Wriddhiman Saha. The off-spinner has a very good record against this opposition with the bat, and again looked good, remaining unbeaten on 22. The story of the day though was about Kohli, scoring a ton on a ground named after the legend he is sometimes compared to.
--By A Cricket Analyst