Joseph, who has played four Tests and 13 one-dayers in a chequered international career, smashed 15 fours and two sixes in 128 not out to be the rock upon which Antigua&Barbuda built their first innings total of 300.
India lost Virender Sehwag caught at backward point for six off Adam Sanford, a fast bowler who played 11 Tests for West Indies between 2002 and 2004, to reach 33 for one when stumps were drawn on the first day.
Joseph held centre stage, after being overlooked by the West Indies selection panel for the recent ODIs and the first Test against the Indians, starting at the Antigua Recreation Ground on Friday.
He faced 176 balls in 4-1/4 hours, and held the innings together, in the face of disciplined, if not menacing bowling from the Indians, boosted by the arrivals of five players, including leg-spin bowler Anil Kumble, for the Test leg of their tour of the Caribbean.
Joseph, who batted with aplomb to lead West Indies-A to victories over England-A on their recent trip to the Caribbean, took 123 balls over his first 50, but then accelerated with a volley of strokes and took another 54 deliveries to reach the three-figure milestone.
No other batsman from the home team came to grips in the same way with the Indian bowling, although Greg Skepple scored 35 and the little known Daniel Thomas made 30.
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was the most successful Indian bowler with three wickets for 46 runs from 15 overs, and Munaf Patel snared two for 39 from 11 overs.
Left-arm fast-medium bowler Irfan Pathan continues to struggle for form and went wicketless in conceding 70 runs in 12 overs, while Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, and Vikram Singh all had useful workouts.
India face West Indies in four Tests. The other three are to be contested at Gros Islet, Basseterre, and Kingston. Brief scores:
Antigua and Barbuda 300: (Sylvester Joseph 128 not out, Greg Skepple 35, Daniel Thomas 30; Shantha Sreesanth 3-46, Munaf Patel 2-39). India 33 for one (Wasim Jaffer 25 not out).