India vs West Indies: If it’s Hyderabad, it’s gotta be the Pujara-Ashwin show
Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin have formed a potent pair in Tests at Uppal. @AFP

West Indies head into the second and final Test in Hyderabad against India with the near impossible task of pulling off a win to level the series 1-1. Beaten by an innings and 272 runs at Rajkot to hand India their largest Test win ever, West Indies now have to brace for impact at a venue where the hosts have never been beaten and have won their last three Test matches by an innings and 115 runs, an innings and 135 runs and 208 runs respectively.

Of their tormenters at Rajkot, two players in particular loom large at the venue for the second Test, the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium at Uppal on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

They are Cheteshwar Pujara who has racked up 500 in four Test innings at the ground, and R Ashwin whose tally there stands at 24 wickets in three Tests at 15 runs apiece and a strike-rate of 36.4.

Daunting, much?

Pujara marked his first Test in Hyderabad with a century while Ashwin grabbed 12 wickets in an innings win over New Zealand in 2012. Batting first, India made 438 with Pujara (159), Virat Kohli (58) and skipper MS Dhoni (73) the main contributors. New Zealand’s first innings unfolded in a very different manner, with Ashwin taking 6/31 to bowl them out for 159. The follow-on enforced, New Zealand slumped to 164 as Ashwin added 6/54.

This set in motion a relationship for both Pujara and Ashwin at Uppal which has abided.

In 2013, India crushed Australia by an innings and 135 runs to go up 2-0 in a four-Test series that would claim 4-0 for the first time. Once again spin had a big role to play, with Ashwin claiming six wickets as Australia made 237/9 declared and 131 either side of India’s 503 which saw Pujara get 204 and Murali Vijay 167.

In early 2017, India hosted Bangladesh for the first time and handed them a 208-run defeat in the one-off Test at Uppal. Pujara missed a century, getting 83 while Kohli made 204, Vijay 108 and Wriddhiman Saha 106 not out to drive India to 687/6 declared, after which Bangladesh were dismissed for 388. Kohli opted to bat again, India set Bangladesh a target of 459 and bowled them out for 250 with Ashwin taking four wickets.

In the ongoing series, Pujara missed out on a century by 14 runs at his home ground at Rajkot. Back at his home away from home, India’s No 3 will be eyeing another big innings to set himself up for the tour of Australia in late November, given that he will not feature for India until the first Test in Brisbane from December 6. Ashwin made a big mark for India in the first Test too, getting six wickets. As he also prepares to bow out of India’s plans until the Australia tour, expect him to also lick his lips as he faces West Indies in Hyderabad.