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Ravichandran Ashwin: Surprised that West Indies decided to bat first

Ashwin lauded KL Rahul for making the most of the opportunity caused by Murali Vijay's unfortunate injury.

Ravichnadran Ashwin India Cricket
Ashwin picked up his 18th five-wicket haul in Tests to help dismiss the hosts for 196 in their first innings

Indian all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin expressed his surprise at West Indies’ skipper Jason Holder’s decision to bat first after winning the toss in the second Test of the four-match series which began in Jamaica on Saturday. Ashwin, who picked up his 18th five-wicket haul in 34 Tests to dismiss the hosts for 196, credited the Indian seamers for making early inroads and also praised opener KL Rahul, who remained unbeaten on 75 at the close of play on Day 1. 

Ashwin conceded that looking in hindsight, Holder’s risky decision seems to have backfired for now but added that he would have chosen to bat as well but only because of India’s superiority in the batting department. 

"I was pretty surprised that they won the toss and batted first today. Like Virat Kohli mentioned at the toss, there was a bit in it, it was a bit sticky," said Ashwin after the opening day's play. "Maybe I would've batted as well. But with their strengths, I thought it was a bit surprising. They lost three wickets in front quickly."

After being reduced to 7/3, the hosts did well to make it to 196 thanks largely to a-run-a-ball 62 by Jermaine Blackwood and Ashwin admitted that he was taken aback by the West Indian middle-order batsman’s approach. 

"I was really taken aback by the counter attack that Blackwood did. It sort of put the game in the balance. And we had to break twice and bring the game back. It's clearly a game where the experienced side is seizing more opportune moments. With a little bit of experience and nailing the right moments, the game could get closer," he said.

Ashwin’s five-wicket haul is sure to help him solidify his spot at the top of the Test rankings for both bowlers and all-rounders and the Tamil Nadu spinner shared his joy at what has been a brilliant tour so far. 

"Everybody wants to start playing cricket one day to achieve what nobody else could achieve. I am happy to be there, at some stage of my career where I am better than everybody else who has played the game,” Ashwin said. "It feels nice, but the only thing that is constant is trying to improve from wherever you are. I think change is very important. This is good, but tomorrow is a different day and you have to keep improving."

Ashwin heaps praise on KL Rahul

Ashwin had words of high praise for Indian opener KL Rahul who looks set for his third Test century as he lies 25 runs away from the three-figure mark. The 24-year-old, who is only playing in the match because of an unfortunate injury to Murali Vijay, has definitely caught the eye of Ashwin and he is not surprised that the Karnataka batsman has made full use of the unlikely opportunity. 

"He has two Test centuries in two countries, and it doesn't really matter because two Test centuries are huge. And from what I think about Rahul, he's a fine player. We all know that he's a quality cricketer," he said. "He's made a lot of runs in first-class cricket. And when he has made hundreds for us, it has been crucial knocks. He made one in Sri Lanka, which is very memorable. As a matter of fact, the way he played in the IPL, it's just an extension.”

Ashwin revealed that in fact he has given Rahul a special nickname and is hopeful that he continues to perform the same whenever he gets the chance. 

“Everybody wants Rahul to do well, which is a big tick for him,” Ashwin said. "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." 

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