India v West Indies, 1st Test, New Delhi, 3rd day November 8, 2011

West Indies struggle to retain stranglehold

S Aga
The once-dominant West Indies has spent more than a decade unable to close out games, especially away from home

In 2006, after India had won the first one-day match of their Caribbean tour, Greg Chappell, then the India coach, raised hackles across the Caribbean by suggesting that the men in maroon had forgotten how to win. In the outrage that followed, the kernel of truth in the statement was forgotten.

The team that once put together the blueprint on how to dominate cricket matches has spent more than a decade unable to close out games, especially away from home.

The numbers don't lie. Since Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose - the last special products of a fast-bowling assembly line that lasted a quarter century - retired a decade ago, West Indies have won precisely one Test away from home against established opposition. That came in the Boxing Day Test of 2007, when a century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul and disciplined pace bowling from Daren Powell, Jerome Taylor, Dwayne Bravo and Fidel Edwards upset South Africa in Port Elizabeth.

There have been several near misses, especially in Sri Lanka and Australia in recent times. It hasn't been restricted to Test cricket either. Even during the World Cup earlier this year, they lost games against England and India that they could so easily have won. One poor decision led to another, and before you knew it, the game had slipped away.

When they came out to field a second time today, West Indies had every right to be confident, with the last three wickets having added 96 runs. Only twice had teams chased 276 or better in India, and the erratic bounce that ended Darren Sammy's sprightly innings would have interested pace bowler and spinner alike.

But the best laid bowling plans count for little when Virender Sehwag is at the crease. On a pitch that R Ashwin reckoned had nothing for batsmen or bowlers, he batted as though someplace else, cruising to a run-a-ball half-century before chopping the ball onto his stumps.

Had Ravi Rampaul held on to a difficult return catch when he had made just 12, the afternoon's play may well have panned out differently. Instead, the 100 came up quickly and Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar could ease their way into proceedings, removing much of the anxiety from the dressing room and stands alike.

"We didn't bowl as well as we had in the first innings," said Ottis Gibson, the coach. "The odd ball was keeping low, but we didn't hit the right areas as often as we'd like."

He remained confident, however, that a turnaround was possible. "We thought 276 was a good score to set," he said. "And things have happened in the morning session right through this match."

In Gibson's eyes, though, the West Indies could have easily have set India something in the region of 350. "I thought we could have been a little more positive, without being reckless," he said. "See the way Sehwag plays. He does it on every surface. But he's been playing 10 years. Our younger batsmen will also learn to read situations better."

The intent that Gibson spoke of was certainly in evidence when Chanderpaul and Sammy were batting, but those two aside, the first half of the day was all about Ashwin and his variations. "We know he's a quality spinner," said Gibson. "We've seen that from his performances in one-day cricket. He's brought that confidence into Tests. Some balls kept low, but he bowled wicket to wicket."

West Indies didn't early on, with Sehwag and Gambhir again getting India off to the ideal start. "It didn't look like the pitch was doing anything when Sehwag was batting," said Gibson with a rueful smile. "But nothing's gone to slip or gully the whole match and we felt we had to have a ring field to keep the runs down."

That tactic worked once Sehwag departed, but it's wickets rather than containment that West Indies need on the fourth morning. The morning papers will doubtless have endless references to the possibility of that 100th century, and perhaps Gibson can put some clippings on the dressing-room wall to rile his players. After all, Chappell's alleged barb did inspire four straight West Indian wins.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on November 9, 2011, 6:31 GMT

    On the 4th day India are already well set to win this encounter. They had done enuff on the 3rd day to gain the upperhand. This test is being won by India's spin strength. English fans although the series is not yet won, India only played badly in one series against you - we were been rubbished by your comments. Yes India has the ability to take 20 wickets and win a test match. In Umesh Yadav we have seen new talent emerge. He proved that even on a bad pitch one can bowl at 140+ in an over. We are were not NO1 in tests just at home.

  • Srinivas on November 9, 2011, 3:05 GMT

    For those who think this match is over, they are again counting the chickens before the eggs are hatched. The pitch is acting up and it's 4th day. It will only get more unpredictable. That's the beauty of our Indian tracks. They need special skills to bat on them unlike the one dimensional tracks of England, SA and Australia. Can't emphasise how lethal Fidel and Bishoo are going to be on day 4. Can't empahsise how effective the cunning Rampaul is going to be. Sammy is as disciplined as anybody we have seen recently. Windies lead is sufficient. They need just a little bit of luck. Our batsmen will be put under some serious pressure by Fidel, Bishoo and Rampaul and a hell lot of questions will be asked by them on 4th morning. Glad to see Windies taking it to the wire against us. Bring it on. Game on. Day 4...Hail Test Match Cricket...Go Windies go...Go India go....Good luck to both the teams.

  • Basil on November 9, 2011, 2:41 GMT

    Marlon Samuels - 35 Tests, batting average of 28 - enough said.

  • Praveen on November 9, 2011, 2:28 GMT

    It will be a great match to watch for cricket lovers.

  • Praveen on November 9, 2011, 2:26 GMT

    The game is evenly poised, i say it because if west indies can exploit the conditions on 4th day, by bringing in edwards with pace and bishoo on other end then the Indian batting will be under serious. Bishoo because its 4 th day and track will assist soon. And for India all they have to do is keep it simple and play the way they did on third day. No need to panic. Just rotate strikes and don't be too defensive.

  • Ahmad on November 9, 2011, 1:46 GMT

    for those who think that Gayle and company would of made a different beating Indiain India,PLEASE DO LOOK AT WEST INDIES past performance IN TEST. and you will see it's NO different than what WestIndies are doing now. AT leasttheyarenot gettting humilated like Gayle andhis Team, this team have Not lostby an innings or wasnt humilated.Gayle and co got beatby a Weak Aussie Team. They haven't Beaten any Teamin a LONG while beside Bangladesh and that series againt England, where just West Indies luck,but thenthey got beten 3- 0 iagainst the same Opponet. We dont Need Gayle and Co in Test Match,Yall need to watch west indiesCricket.this young team is showing a good future,thyejust need more Matches under there belt and they can Prove the world different, this young Teambow out India in the first inning for one the lowest Total in india, unfortunely they wasnt consistant, Same result would with Gayle andCo, yall NEED to do some research on west indies cricket, We hardly win even with gayle

  • Balbir on November 9, 2011, 1:20 GMT

    Almost everyone of the West Indies fans thought Adrian Barath was fit, ready and was selcted for this first test. Would it have made a difference - not sure. Is he still sick? He would have probably be a better partner for Braithwaitte opening the innings. He can stay at the crease for long periods and he can be a run getter. He can play both pace and spin equally. Hope he will be fit and be selected for the remaining tests. If the match is heading India's way on the fourt day with no chance of changing its course, players like Chanderpaul should throw down a few overs. In India you must have an off spinner in the team and chanderpaul left arm can do the trick. What do they have to lose now?

  • charlie on November 9, 2011, 0:32 GMT

    I heard the criticisms of a few players ,Kirk Edwards and Sammy as usual ,but what about some of the other batsmen during the first innings ?? Bravo for example ,after the stage had been set to build a big innings for the team ,he decides to play a stroke that , Not even a novice is expected to play . The other player is Baugh ,who sweeps from centre wicket ,at a time when he was well set ; we all know the results of these actions . The oportunity lost to build a sizeable first innings score was never re-gained in the second innings ,as a result West Indies incurred the disadvantage . Who knows what could have been the results had these guys made better decisions .

  • Dummy4 on November 9, 2011, 0:17 GMT

    Chanderpaul has been playing brilliantly. Good work. And I hope the WICB and friends don't force you out.

  • Nikhil on November 8, 2011, 22:25 GMT

    Obviously India are in the drivers seat. Equally obviously VVS looks to be at the end of his career. Bringing Virat in should be a good option for the remaining tests.

    BTW, I don't think the test is over yet. The wicket does seem to be playing unpredictably and a couple of early wickets to change the situation.

    Finally Sammy should be given some credit. He has brought some discipline into the team and this team looks like one that they can build on. They need to stay with this nucleus and focus on giving time for the team to mature.

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