Windies hopes high for victory
It has been a round of good results for West Indies. But India also have happy memories here. Today when the Digicel Pearls Test cricket series begins at Sabina Park, both teams will be hoping to keep the good times rolling.
Home team West Indies will be the more optimistic of the two sides this morning.
Sabina is renowned for feats of outstanding Windies fast bowling and batting. India were infamous victims of the Windies pacers in the controversial fourth Test of the 1976 tour when on an uneven strip, two Indian batsmen were forced to retire hurt; Indian captain Bishen Bedi declared his side’s first innings with six wickets down and in the second innings, five batsmen were declared “absent hurt.”
And while such a difficult strip is not expected this time, if the one prepared for last Thursday’s fifth and final One-day International is anything to go by, the Test surface will encourage the faster bowlers. Captain Darren Sammy sees opportunity for both his batsmen and bowlers to take advantage.
“So far it’s been the pitch that really suits our style,” he told the media yesterday. “We managed to restrict India to 250 in the one-day game and then the batters found it very comfortable chasing down 250, so I think with that mindset, knowing that the ball won’t be spinning so much like in the previous venues we’ve played, the batsmen will have a little more confidence going into the Test match . . . I’m expecting our batsmen to go out there and give a better show.”
West Indies have already made one change to the final XI which played in the drawn series against Pakistan, recalling fit-again opening batsman Adrian Barath. The tougher question for the selectors would have been what the bowling combination should be for this match. The expected conditions may give them greater cause to consider Fidel Edwards, so far unused in the international season. And while the final say is not his, Sammy likes the idea of extra ammunition.
“The record speaks that when (you have) more firepower against India, you have a better chance of bowling them out . . . It’s something to consider,” he said.
Sammy’s Indian counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni acknowledges the potential threat of Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and company, “if they can bowl at the right areas”.
But he will also be mindful that it was India, not West Indies who triumphed the last time the two sides played here. In a low-scoring match dominated by the bowlers, India won by 49 runs.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh got five wickets in the West Indies first innings back then, all in one five-over spell as the home side were shot out for 103. But the real hero was then skipper Rahul Dravid, whose half-centuries in both innings proved the difference between the teams.
Now 38, Dravid and fellow veteran V.V.S. Laxman will bring experience and proven skill to the Indian line-up. However, both have been out of international cricket since the Cape Town Test against South Africa in January.
On the bowling side, India will also hope that another 2006 survivor, Munaf Patel, will be able to overcome his elbow injury and take his place in an attack that will miss the absent Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth.
As Test cricket’s No.1 team, India are expected to prove their strength in depth in this series. West Indies, with the Chris Gayle brouhaha rumbling on, are keen to prove they are in reality, a side making progress.
“Throughout this series the guys have been very professional and gone about the cause of representing the West Indies team and the last two games showed the fighting spirit, the belief in the team; so hopefully we could take that momentum into the Test match,” said Sammy yesterday.