'We were beaten on the mental side' - Sammy
Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, has said his team was beaten by India in the Kolkata Test because they lost the mental battle to their opponents. Sammy said there was plenty his team could learn from India, especially from the debutant pair of Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami, the match-winners for India.
"We were beaten on the mental side of the game because man-for-man we could play much, much better than we did today," Sammy said at the post-match press briefing.
Sammy also said the defeat highlighted the brittleness of West Indies' batting. "It is more mental. It is not technical," he said. "It is about us being mentally strong enough that when things are not going our way, we have to graft. We had India 80-something for 6 (83 for 5), but Ashwin and Rohit, playing his first game, they grafted. They weathered the storm and they expressed themselves when they were in."
Sammy pointed to how Rohit constructed his innings as something his team could learn from. "I remember Rohit when he was on 78 when he went down the wicket for the first time and hit our champion spinner for a six. This shows a lot of application, keeping the ball along the ground, not giving the opposition a sniff. That is why it is Test cricket - being patient and batting it out for your team."
Funnily enough, on the eve of the Test, Sammy had said that he was counting on the India batsmen, who had played a lot of ODI cricket in the last months, to have lesser patience. Instead it was the West Indies' batsmen's impatience that was exposed in both innings.
Just three days ago Sammy had sounded motivated and confident about the same batting group which includes Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. Their experience, Sammy had pointed out, would help West Indies match India's rich batting vault.
In the end West Indies lasted a total of 132.1 overs in the match, and only one of their batsmen made a half-century. Their highest partnership was 91 between Samuels and Darren Bravo in the first innings.
Both their openers Kieran Powell and Gayle got starts but got sucked into playing the wrong shot against the first bouncer they faced. Bravo once again flattered to deceive and his ability to last against strong teams remains in doubt. Chanderpaul, the biggest threat for India, never looked commanding. Only Samuels could count himself unlucky for being bowled in the first innings by Shami with one of the best deliveries in the match and then ruled out leg-before due to a dubious decision.
"You can't point out one person," Sammy responded to query that suggested whether Gayle's irresponsible stroke was the turning point today. "As a batting group we have not batted well at all. A lot of rash shots were played, irresponsible shots. It started with me as captain especially in the first innings. But it is something each individual has to pick up on their selves, be responsible for the runs for the team. As a group we did not do that in any of the innings."
The key for Sammy remained application, and the ability to concentrate for long stretches, much like Rohit and R Ashwin had done in their match-changing 280-run partnership. "One of our goals is to bat at least 130 overs in the first innings. In the first innings we batted 70 (78) and this one probably 56 thereabouts. So we are not occupying the crease and Test cricket is about being patient. We saw how Rohit in the first innings occupied the crease and so did Ashwin. We as a batting group should take a lesson from the way those two batted. We had our main spinner bowling for most of the innings and they just played ball by ball and they just batted us out of the game. That one partnership."
The waywardness of West Indies bowlers, barring Shane Shillingford, allowed Rohit and Ashwin to first settle down, then consolidate and finally score freely. Tino Best can be a big threat with his pace, but he remained more expressive with his mouth than with the ball in hand. Sheldon Cottrell, making his debut, did nothing more than pitch on lengths that the pair could either leave easily or take easy runs. Then there was the pair of Sammy and left-arm specialist spinner Veerasammy Permaul, which was supposed to be more disciplined in their lines and lengths in order to help Shillingford build the pressure.
"I am disappointed in the way I and Permaul bowled," Sammy conceded. "We played two spinners to get wickets for us. We know fast bowlers tend to struggle in India. At one point of view we just needed one of me or Permaul to support Shillingford like [Pragyan] Ojha did for Ashwin in the first innings. Keep one end tight while Ashwin attacked (from the other end). And I thought myself especially and Permaul did not apply the pressure when Shillingford was in a good spell. He ended up bowling 50 overs in the match."
It was West Indies' first Test defeat within three days in four years with the last one coming under Gayle against Australia in Brisbane in 2009. Sammy might have imagined West Indies had actually risen from those depths, but reality is they keep slipping back to similar levels.