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July 4, 2006
No one would grudge him the Man of the Series award, especially after his never-to-be-forgotten twin fifties in the final Test at Kingston. With four half-centuries and one hundred, he was the talismanic presence in the Indian side and took some bold decisions throughout. His catching at slip was a bit suspect at times, and his field placements, on occasions caused a few heads to spin, but those were just small blips in a memorable summer. Purely on batting alone, he had no peer.
Tireless as ever, Kumble showed his unquenchable thirst for a fight. In a series where no bowler managed more than 150 overs and on pitches that didn't offer him much support, Kumble sent down 223.1 overs and always provided some solidity at one end. He was streets ahead in the wicket-takers' lists (with 23 wickets he had eight more than Corey Collymore at second place) and it was only fitting that he finished it off at Kingston. His batting was crucial too - his partnership with VVS Laxman at St Kitts went a long way in thwarting West Indies while his 45 at Kingston proved vital in the final analysis.
On his first foreign tour, bowling largely on shirt-fronts, Munaf took several strides forward. He cranked up the pace consistently and hit the splice of the bat even when the pitch didn't offer any assistance. Barring a brief session at St Kitts, when Sarwan pelted him for six fours in an over, he managed a steady length and troubled all with reverse swing too.
For sheer impact, it would be tough to find an innings as glorious as Sehwag's hundred at St Lucia. On the first morning of the Test, with speculation rife about a green pitch, he manhandled the bowling as only he can. His rapidfire fifty at St Kitts gave India a whiff of winning a contest where they had played catch up throughout. Sehwag's bowling also developed wonderfully on this tour - the fact that India chose four bowlers reposing faith in his bowling ability must tell you something. He teased with his offbreaks and his nine wickets in the series at 23.22 were thoroughly deserved.
India's fightback in the first Test at Antigua revolved around Jaffer's magnificent maiden Test double hundred, an innings where he produced some gorgeous strokes on a slow pitch. The value of his twin fifties at St Kitts, when India had their backs to the wall, should also not be underestimated. He fumbled a few chances at slip, surprising given how safe he is while fielding in that position for Mumbai.
Sreesanth showed why he was rated so highly by the team management with some inspired spells when they were needed. He gave India a wonderful start on the final day of the Antigua Test, only to be thwarted by the last-wicket partnership, and was outstanding in the decider at Kingston. His batting too showed some promise though his out-fielding, at times, left a lot to be desired.
Shrouded by intrigue for the first half of the series, Harbhajan delivered fine spells in the final two games. His two five-wicket hauls were a study in contrast - the first, at St Kitts, came when West Indies were looking for quick runs, the second came in just 4.3 overs on the second day of the final Test. His unbeaten 38 at St Kitts also proved crucial in frustrating West Indies.
Laxman's workman-like hundred at St Kitts helped India claw their way back into the game, one in which they were heavily up against the odds. He showed glimpses of his vintage best but mostly preferred to grind it out on a pitch that was slow from the outset. He followed it up with a fifty in the second innings ensuring that they left unscathed.
Kaif's maiden hundred at St Lucia put India on course for a big first-innings total. After nearly seven years in international cricket, he finally seemed to have cemented his place in the middle order. However, he looked out of place in the next two games and needs to show more consistency if he harbours hopes of a permanent slot. He was an energetic presence while fielding in the covers but his close-in catching wasn't upto the mark.
VRV Singh showed tremendous promise in the two Tests he played, turning in some fiery spells. He even impressed Brian Lara, who didn't hesitate to complement him at the end of the series. One thought he was under-bowled in the second innings at St Lucia, despite having a good outing in the first innings. His batting though, an aspect where he has shown some ability at domestic level, produced more humour than results.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
It was unfortunate that the Caribbean public didn't get to see Dhoni in his full splendour. He carted the bowling around in the second innings at Antigua, when India were pushing for a declaration, but managed only 99 runs in the other six innings. His wicketkeeping, though, improved as the tour went along and he gave a good account of himself against both spin and pace.
An average of 17.33 in four Tests, with a highest score of 39, tells you what a poor series it was for Yuvraj. He gave glimpses of overcoming the lean run, especially in Kingston when he began with some confident drives, but invariably got out owing to poor shot selection. His fielding, though, remained sharp.
It was a harsh learning curve for Pathan, going from India's golden boy to fifth-choice bowler in a span of a few months. After a poor showing in the one-dayers, he only played in one Test and, though he showed signs of improvement, was nowhere close to his best.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
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