PORT OF SPAIN: India pacer Mohammed Siraj is confident spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will prove to be more than a handful for the West Indies batters on the final day of the second Test here on Monday and help the visitors make a clean sweep of the two-match series.
India, after setting a 365-run target for the hosts to level the series, had West Indies struggling at 76/2 at stumps on day four with veteran spinner Ashwin taking both the wickets on Sunday.
The Caribbean side still has to score 289 runs to achieve an improbable win on Monday with the wicket assisting spinners.
"The way the wicket is behaving, Ashwin, I feel, will run through the West Indies batting, the ball is turning," said Siraj at the end of the day's play after India declared their innings at 181/2 and then got rid of the dangerous West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite and Kirk McKenzie to leave the hosts in a spot of bother.
Siraj also disclosed that it was India's strategy to bat aggressively in the second innings and set a big target quickly for the home side.
India batters, especially, Ishan Kishan played T20-style cricket notching up 52 off just 34 balls.
"Yes, Ishan is an aggressive batter. Rishabh Pant is not there, so as a wicketkeeper, he (Ishan) is able to fill in for Pant's loss to a certain extent, if not completely. He has the ability to hit the ball long and hard. He has the ability to hit all around the ground. We had enough runs on the board (first innings lead), so our plan was to score as many (runs in the second innings) in a short period and then (after declaration), we would be able to get more overs to bowl out the West Indies."
Siraj grabbed a five-for in the first innings, which helped India dismiss the West Indies for 255 in response to the visitors' 438, and Siraj said bowling tirelessly in these conditions wasn't easy.
"I would rate my performance very high because it's not easy to take five wickets on a flat wicket. I had set a plan, especially when the ball started reverse swinging, I executed my line and length perfectly. My plan was simple. Since the ball wasn't doing much, I kept it stump-to-stump and also derived some seam," he added.
He added that it wasn't easy bowling in hot and humid conditions with frequent rain interruptions.
"When you bowl long spells in this heat and humidity, it is not easy. Then intermittent rains and to warm up again and again after every rain break, it was very challenging."
Siraj added he was proud to have become the mainstay of the Indian pace-bowling unit in a short span of two-and-half years.
With Jasprit Bumraj recovering from a back injury and Mohammed Shami rested for the West Indies series, the pressure is on Siraj to deliver and the 29-year-old quick has not disappointed.
"To be honest, I feel very nice when I get a responsibility, when no (senior) is there. When I have responsibility on my shoulders, I like it a lot, and I like accepting challenges," said Siraj.
Pacer Mukesh Kumar bowling 23 overs and taking two wickets so far in his debut match also drew praise from Siraj, who said the 29-year-old bowler easily adjusted to the flat track here as he had bowled extensively on docile wickets in domestic cricket.
"Mukesh is not a new player. He plays Ranji Trophy regularly and bowls on difficult wickets. It's not easy to take wickets in Ranji Trophy, where wickets are even more flat than the one at Port of Spain. Performing in domestic cricket is a huge achievement and then coming here and controlling your nerves is not easy. He is playing his first match for India and that too a Test and he is bowling long spells," added Siraj.