India v West Indies, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 5th day November 26, 2011

Would have been heartbreaking to lose - Sammy

N Hunter

West Indies are lucky to have a leader like Darren Sammy. Throughout this series - as he has so far in his captaincy tenure - Sammy once again proved that with commitment, his team can achieve many things. Only South Africa have known the taste of beating India in India in the last five years. Yet Sammy's inexperienced bunch came very close today to nearly shock India on a cathartic final day's play which ended with the game being drawn off the last ball.

It was a dramatic day of Test cricket, which would not have been possible without the courage displayed by West Indies. Their captain could not bowl with a sore hamstring and hobbled around the field all afternoon; their specialist spinner, Devendra Bishoo, also limped with a thigh strain picked up while batting in the first innings; their experience-thin bowling attack had to not only counter the formidable Indian batting but also a vociferous home crowd hurling abuses.

Sammy had to keep thinking on one leg if he had to stop India from securing a 3-0 whitewash. The day had started off with the West Indies batsmen shockingly throwing away their wickets in complete contrast to the admirable application they had shown on the first two days. "We took the position for granted," Sammy said. "Knowing that we had scored 590 in the first innings we relaxed a little bit. Some of the shots played were not called for. At the end we paid the price for it. I know the coach will definitely talk about it. It is about us being mentally prepared to bat in both innings of a Test."

A target of 243 in 64 overs did not seem out of hand for India. Virat Kohli had said the previous evening that India could chase down a target in one-and-a-half sessions. The game was on when Virender Sehwag, having started steadily, was clocking boundaries at his usual rate as the Indian boat streamed at five runs an over.

It did not deter Sammy and his troops. He had read the final day pitch well and made Samuels bowl for nearly three hours for a marathon spell of 25 overs. From the other end, Bishoo gamely challenged the Indians to take him on.

Sammy knew the pressure would get to India once the wickets fell. He changed his field constantly but purposefully, encouraging his bowlers to pitch attacking lines. Ravi Rampaul got the old ball to reverse wonderfully. On Friday, Rampaul bore the brunt of abuses from the Wankhede crowd once he cut short Sachin Tendulkar's fairy tale. He said he would not step out of the team hotel last evening. Today afternoon he stepped out to deliver an attacking spell of fast bowling that accounted for VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni.

Eventually the nerves got to the Indians as partnerships were broken at critical times. Even when 55 runs were need off the 15 mandatory overs, West Indies knew they had a chance. "I did not foresee that to be happening to be honest," Sammy said of the drawn result. "But you know every disappointment is a blessing in disguise. We didn't bat well but the way the bowlers came out there and showed character, fight … Bishoo, on one leg, bowling 50-plus overs in the match; Samuels bowling 20 [25] straight overs; Ravi, Fidel, unfortunately I could not bowl in that innings."

Sammy said his team showed the same determination evident in June during the final Test of the home series against India in Dominica where Rampaul did not bowl in the first innings. "We showed fight in Dominica when we had three bowlers. Today again, a bowler down, we really showed a lot of fight. That is a positive we could take from this series; we really kept our head up when we were down."

According to Sammy, when India took just 24 runs between overs 40 to 50 and lost Dhoni, he knew that they were switched to the conservative mode after Sehwag had built early momentum. "I thought the way they [Kohli and Dhoni] were batting they might not go for the runs because Ravi was bowling a good spell."

"I was speaking to Kirk [Edwards] at cover and he said 'win or draw, win or draw, we can't lose this, we won't lose this.' That was the belief in the guys. The way we batted (in the first innings), it would have been very heartbreaking for us to come back and lose the game."
Darren Sammy

But as the countdown began and R Ashwin took India to the doorstep of victory, Sammy conceded he was edgy and did not rule out even a tie. "All sorts of things were going through my mind coming down to the end. At one point the tied Test went through my mind.

"I was speaking to Kirk [Edwards] at cover and he said 'win or draw, win or draw, we can't lose this, we won't lose this.' That was the belief in the guys. The way we batted (in the first innings), it would have been very heartbreaking for us to come back and lose the game."

Under Sammy, West Indies have become a feisty bunch, drawing series in Sri Lanka and against Pakistan at home before winning in Bangladesh.

If there is one person who stands alongside Sammy in this steady revival of sorts, it is the West Indies coach Ottis Gibson. "For me on a personal note, he has a way bringing out the belief in the team. You can see how the bowling unit has progressed and improved well. We came from not being able to bowling out teams twice and then bowling out India who were No.1 back then in the Caribbean; travelled to Sri Lanka and enforced the follow-on; we drew Pakistan at home and here in India we competed really well.

"The guys are slowly but surely believing that we could achieve things like we showed in the last Test - following on and scoring over 400 runs in the second innings. In the first Test we were in a position to win. Gibson keeps telling us that in order to win we must create an opportunity. So far we have been creating lots of opportunities to win. It is about getting that belief that we could move on and win."

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