Posted on

India can break Oval jinx

Mike King

India can  break Oval jinx

Social Share

INDIA have never won a Test match at Kensington Oval. The West Indies have endured six defeats in their last eight matches there and are winless on the ground they once regarded as a fortress since it was modernised in 2007.
It all adds up to a fascinating contest for this week’s West Indies/India second Digicel Test which starts this morning.
In eight matches dating back to their inaugural tour of the Caribbean in 1953, India have had seven  defeats, most of them heavy, and one draw, that achieved back in 1971 when Sunil Gavaskar in just  his third match, made a fine second innings hundred to thwart the Sir Garfield Sobers-led home team.
Things have changed dramatically for both teams. Once considered lions at home and lambs away, India in the last five years have had away series triumphs in the West Indies in 2006, England in 2007 and New Zealand in 2009. They are unbeaten in their last ten series, their last series loss coming in Sri Lanka in 2008.
 In Rahul Dravid, they have one one of the best number three batsmen in the history of the game, a player good enough to score 32 Test hundreds, 18 of them away from home.
V.V.S?Laxman did not score a hundred until his 17th Test match, but has since established himself as one of the top middle-order batsmen in the world. He has six hundreds against Australia including the monumental 281 at Kolkata in 2001 and his second innings average of 50.88 is among the best in the modern game.
Dravid, Laxman and Harbhajan Singh are the three survivors from the last India side that played at Kensington Oval in 2002. Harbhajan will not only want to bowl India to victory but will be seeking four scalps to join the distinguished 400-wicket club.
 Harbhajan will become the 11the man and the fourth spinner to achieve the feat. The “Turbanator” has 396 wickets, 258 at home at 28 runs apiece, and 138 overseas at an average of 38.
Shiv Chanderpaul, the last West Indies captain to win on the ground back in 2005, will play in his 132nd match, tying with Courtney Walsh as the most capped home player. Five of his 22 hundreds have been made against India.
 Chanderpaul, 36, and Ramnaresh Sarwan, are the only survivors from the 2002 showdown between the two teams at Kensington that the West Indies won by ten wickets. Merv Dillon had two four wickets hauls and was Man of the Match.
 On that occasion, Carl Hooper made his only hundred on the ground, 115. Amazingly, for all of the massive support that Hooper has enjoyed in Barbados over the years, he averages a disappointing 29.05 on the ground in ten matches.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy will be playing his 15th match and first at Kensington.
He will have a tough task in maintaining the home team’s proud record of the ground which included an unbeaten run for 59 years that stretched from 1935 to 1994.
It is a ground that former captains Sir Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd never lost a Test. Richards won all six matches under his helm while Lloyd had five victories and one draw. The legendary Sobers drew all four matches under his tenure between
1965 and 1972. Sobers never tasted victory as captain but he has the highest score on the ground in West Indies/India contests, 178 in the 1971 clash.
The three highest scores in West Indies/India matches have been made by Guyanese Rohan Kanhai (256), Faoud Bacchus (250) and Lloyd (242), and each was on Indian soil.
Kapil Dev has the best bowling performance, 9-83 in Ahmedabad in 1983 while the late Jack Noreiga leads the West Indies list with 9-95 at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad in 1971 in his second Test.
 Dev also has the most wickets (89) in West Indies/India matches with the late Malcolm Marshall topping the West Indies list with 76. Andy Roberts, who took 32 wickets in the 1974-75 series in India, has 67 Indian scalps.
Kensington has happy memories for Lloyd, Desmond Haynes and Joel Garner. Lloyd and Haynes have the most hundreds (4) there while Garner made his debut on the ground in 1977 against Pakistan, snatching four wickets including Sadiq Mohammed and Majid Khan and then followed up with a knock of 43.
• Mike King is a senior reporter at the Nation with over 30 years experience as a journalist.