Things looking up for Windies
One can lose a battle, or several, but still win the war. In the recently concluded series; India v West Indies; especially Test No. 3 in Dominica, West Indies may have drawn that particular battle, but the universal acceptance is that West Indies won the entire war, even as India won the Test series 1-0.
Putting all into proper perspective, most expected that India, even with a reduced team, with bowlers Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth, and batsmen Gautam Ghambir, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, all regulars, missing for varying reasons, would have very easily throttled West Indies.
Many, maybe most of us, including me, have been very pleasantly, positively, surprised by the efforts of West Indies in this series. Had it not been for general selection errors, West Indies could, probably would, have beaten India. What an embarrassment that would have been for the No. 1 Test team.
West Indies should have won Test No. 1, in Jamaica, except that its batting failed; twice. Set 326 to win, they made 262, with all of the senior batsmen failing. If they had each made just 30 runs, in both innings, West Indies would have won that game and, perhaps the series too.
Test No. 2, even with the rain interventions, could also have been won by West Indies. In the end, again set a gettable 281 to win, that had to be viewed as leap too far, after they had been 201-5 at one stage. The bowlers did their usual splendid job. As has been most times the case, the senior batsmen failed.
Dominica’s entrance into Test cricket, Venue No. 106, was quite successful, thanks to the most determined, if not always consistent, bowling that West Indies has recently performed. By the third Test, the bowlers were nearly kaput, probably running on fumes, but still doing the business well.
India showed that they are champions by name, but not in nature; cowards, really, quite ambitionless.
They looked so bad cowering to the No. 7 rated team, by not attacking to get 86 additional runs, in 90 deliveries, to win. What about adventurous, entertaining cricket? India was quite disappointing here.
This is a team, with supposedly its best captain in years, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one who was instrumental in making them ICC World Cup champions, and rated No. 1, suggesting that they could not score at less than one run per delivery. If they have that same approach against England, they will lose!
Can you imagine one of Australia’s most attacking captains, revered Richie Benaud, brash Ian Chappell, adventurous Mark Taylor or manipulative Steve Waugh, ‘deciding on a draw’, with just another 86 runs to get in that last hour, from minimum 15 overs – 90 legal deliveries – to be bowled, even at 94-3?
Or can you think of that most chance-taking captain of all, (Sir) Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, (Sir) Vivian Richards, or even Brian Lara, not taking up that offer? The answer is ‘no’.
West Indies lost a great chance there too. They should have insisted that India play out that last hour – 15 overs – to see how things developed, just for spite, if nothing else, even though its bowlers were quite tired, even if it might not have worked out. Fortune favours the brave, even those wounded.
Darren Sammy’s captaincy was good, but sometimes naïve and restricted on many occasions, the latter developed by the teams that he was given. He gets 7.5 from 10 for his captaincy, especially his energy.
Sammy would have learnt much with this outing at the helm. His captaincy should be continued. Simply, he did a fine job with the tools that he had. Conversely, no-one else conjures up anything now.
Taking the responsibility of not having that needed fifth bowler in all Tests v India, or having the services of Ravi Rampaul unavailable for No. 3, Sammy bowled his heart out. Yet, one negative of bowling captains, similar to Courtney Walsh, is that they bowl too much. Team is exactly that; team. Use them!
What Sammy now has to do, after overcoming the jitters of his first captaincy series, is to really focus on his batting. Aggression is not always necessary when batting. Just ask Gordon Greenidge. Sometimes one has to temper that aggression with the task at hand. It is very possible for Sammy to achieve that.
Sammy’s batting team, except for few sporadic innings, especially from the younger players; Darren Bravo, Adrian Barath, old-stager Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, and latterly Carlton Baugh and Kirk Edwards, let him down badly. Youth and exuberance must be harnessed properly, creatively.
In six innings, West Indies made only two centuries, and five half centuries. That is not good enough.
Shiv Chanderpaul, in his record-breaking 133rd Test, and Kirk Edwards, in his first Test, scored the only West Indies centuries, 116 not out, and 110, in Test No. 3, both in second innings, when the team needed them most. The resilience of Chanders and enterprise of Edwards actually saved West Indies in Test No. 3!
Adrian Barath made 64, Test No. 1, 1st innings; Marlon Samuels made 78, Test No. 2, first innings; Darren Bravo made 73, Test No 2, second innings, and 50, Test No. 3, first innings and Carlton Baugh 60, Test No. 3, first innings. Those statistics are nothing to write home about, but at least there is hope there for the future.
Colin Croft is a former West Indies fast bowler who regularly comments on issues surrounding West Indies cricket.