A sorry capitulation by the Indians
The Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados has always been one of the dreaded Test venues for the Indian cricket team. After seeing them go 1-0 up in the series with a remarkable victory in Trinidad, I had expected India to erase the bad memories associated with Bridgetown. But, then, one more forgettable performance from the tourists allowed the West Indies to square the series 1-1. I am not sure whether it was the Barbados bogey that led to the defeat, but it was a hammering all right.
It is any fast bowler's dream to knock off the stumps with the very first ball of a match, and that is what Dillon precisely did to Shiv Sunder Das. I am certain that India literally lost the match with that dismissal. They never recovered from the shock of that first-ball dismissal and no batsmen barring Sourav Ganguly showed any kind of a fight. I was appalled to see Sachin Tendulkar playing a very loose shot to get out for a second consecutive duck. It is just because he is Tendulkar that he gets away with such indiscretion.
It was also sad to see Rahul Dravid get run out; he is the in-form batsman and if only Ganguly had been more mindful of the situation, we could have averted the loss of Dravid's wicket. The first innings total of 102 runs that India eventually put up meant that theirs seemed a lost cause by the end of the first day itself.
The West Indies batting really revolves around Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Even though Lara and Sarwan did not go on to make hundreds, they put on a vital partnership which allowed Hooper and Chanderpaul to bat without much pressure later. The two Guyanese batsmen have a strong liking for the Indian attack and have been scoring a lot of runs in the series. Hooper's continued success with the bat has definitely helped him to be more decisive with his captaincy.
Ashish Nehra once again proved his utility to the Indian team, making decisive breakthroughs. The other two members of the Indian pace attack also bowled with a lot of heart. Harbhajan Singh was a big letdown, not being able to support the efforts of the fast bowlers.
The West Indies bowling, meanwhile, was simply superb. Mervyn Dillon bowled a good line and length and success was his, with eight wickets and the Man of the Match award in the bag. The Windies bowlers were always at the batsmen, making them play at deliveries, which increased the percentage of their success. They also showed great discipline which was in sharp contrast to the woefully unprofessional Indian batting. The fact that Zaheer Khan and Srinath gifted the part-time bowler Sarwan their wickets, playing such careless shots, say a lot about the attitude of the tourists.
It was a bit shocking to see Ganguly walk back to the pavilion with his head down after having lost the Test match. It was a lion-hearted batting effort from Ganguly in both the innings against a fuming pace attack and he would do well to keep his chin up and rally the boys around him to win the Test series.
Summing up, it was the spectacular batting collapse in the first innings and the failure of Harbhajan Singh to strike when required most, which lost India the Test. It was appalling that a side that played so well in Trinidad, surrendered so meekly in Barbados. VVS Laxman perhaps epitomises the flaw in the Indian approach; he was the Man of the Match in Trinidad and the two irresponsible shots he played in Barbados proved to be costly errors.
India will now have to really raise their game to win this Test series. West Indies have tasted success and they will be difficult opponents to beat on the fast tracks of Antigua and Jamaica, the venues of the next two Tests.
Barbados has proved that Mervyn Dillon and company can be match-winners. It was a most convincing performance from the West Indies team and all credit should go to Carl Hooper.