No easy task for WI
Australia’s brutal annihilation of India will not put too many smiles on the faces of die-hard West Indian cricket fans with the men in baggy green caps, touring the Caribbean next month.
Had India push Michael Clarke’s men to the limit in a close series, the West Indies could have dared to dream of making the home series of five one-day internationals and three Tests a genuine contest.
Fat chance. Australia mauled India in an embarrassingly one-sided four-Test series and come here in a few weeks’ time on a high. If that blow-out of India was not enough, Australia will take heart from the knowledge that they have not lost a series to the West Indies in 20 years, the last defeat inflicted by Richie Richardson’s team on the 1992-93 tour Down Under.
It will surprise no one if Australia continued that winning streak, but surely West Indies with or without Darren Sammy as captain, can’t play as badly as India have done over the past few weeks. If commonsense prevails and the West Indies head into the opening Test on April 7 at Kensington Oval minus Sammy, they can be competitive with a balanced side that can test an Australian side that has been made to look all powerful by an inept Indian side who played like lambs and were duly slaughtered.
This is not the time for the West Indies to play an inexperienced opening pair or to persevere with Marlon Samuels at No. 6 and Carlton Baugh at number seven.
In 1995, when Australia toured the Caribbean, Kensington Oval was also the venue for the opening Test and the West Indies selectors turned their backs on Desmond Haynes and went for rookies Stuart Williams and Sherwin Campbell. It was only the seventh Test for Williams and the third for Campbell and before you could say Jackie Robinson, both were back in the pavilion and the West Indies were five for two.
That match ended in defeat in three days and the West Indies went on to lose their first home series since 1973. It could be a case of deja vu if we have not learnt from that mistake.
Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell and Kraigg Brathwaite are just as unproven as Williams and Campbell were then. Barath has played nine Tests, Brathwaite six and Powell, four, and all three of them average under 30. Only one of them should be facing the fire of James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle in April.
Opening is a special art and the start to a match can either make you or break you. The recent series in India is proof of that. Much criticism has been made of the team’s middle-order failures, but an innings starts at the top and both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were hugely disappointing with 26 being their best stand in eight innings.
Sehwag has gone 14 Tests without a century and has not made a hundred outside of the sub-continent in four years. Only once in 96 Tests, has he scored a second innings hundred, a telling stat that reveals an inability to knuckle down in ther second phase of a match when the pitch is at his worse and skill and character is required.
His fans refer to two blazing triple hundreds on the sub continent, but I will refer to 40 scores under ten and not a single match winning innings outside of Asia. Quite simply a hit and miss player, who misses more than he hits.
Gambhir has gone 20 Tests without a century, the last time he passed triple figures was against lightweight Bangladesh in January 2010. He has nine Test tons, seven on the sub- continent and two in New Zealand.
He averages 17 in England and 22 in Australia.
India have been a pathetic world number one. To lose eight successive overseas Tests and all by significant margins is disgraceful. I can’t remember a team batting and bowling so badly in two series.
They have struggled against an Australian side that were tottering at 21 for nine and eventually knocked off for 47 by South Africa in November.
It is the same Australian side that were beaten on home soil by neighbours New Zealand in December.
Over the last two years, England’s Alistair Cook reeled off nine hundreds before Ricky Ponting could score one, now he has two and is eager to come to the Caribbean. Hilfenhaus couldn’t find a way past the bat of Cook and Ian Bell in the last Ashes series, now he is blasting through India’s so called fantastic four of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS?Laxman and Sehwag.
One doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to detect that that fantastic four are a spent force and the time has come for India to unearth a new crop of avengers with Virat Kohli likely to be their iron man.
Kohli has surprised many and I must admit that I was among the doubters. Branded as a One-Day player, and to be dodgy against the short ball, Kohli was the only Indian who enhanced his reputation in the series. He kept improving, batted with heart at Perth and made a fine hundred at Adelaide, the only hundred on an ill-fated tour.
This series has shown us the collective waning of the influence and impact of the Indian batting. It has shown us evidence of the fading powers of the Dravid-Tendulkar-Laxman trinity.
It is time for those who govern cricket in India and the millions of fans there to stop living in denial and realize that the era has passed and it is time to move on and the first step to that is improving the quality of its pitches.
They need to produce pitches that result in an even contest between bat and ball and not ones heavily in their favour. Good pitches make for good allround cricketers who can adapt to any surface and that has always been India’s problem. That is why they continue to be found wanting on the world stage.