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It is unclear what West Indies have really learned from Kolkata. Their batsmen remain distracted. Their bowlers continue to spray the ball all round. And their captain has failed to lead by example
November 14, 2013
Empty words. That is what Darren Sammy has delivered so far not only to the fans in the West Indies, but also the general cricketing crowd. For three innings in a row this series, the West Indies batsmen have displayed an utter lack of application and a level of patience thinner than that of a toddler. To say that West Indies would be somewhere else rather than playing the farewell series for Sachin Tendulkar would not be inaccurate.
Of course, every member of the West Indies squad has said that it is a privilege to play in Tendulkar's final series. Yet if they really understood Tendulkar, they would pay their respects with a hard fight and not the limp and lame manner in which they have fought in the four days of Test cricket played so far. In the nets, Tendulkar hates a distracted bowler. For him commitment to the game has always come first.
Seventy eight, 54.1, 55.2 are the number of overs West Indies have lasted in their three innings in Kolkata and today in Mumbai. The Kolkata Test ended in three days. Already there is talk about this one, too, not lasting the distance.
No one was a bigger culprit today than Sammy. He had just played one ball, against R Ashwin. The previous delivery Narsingh Deonarine had been caught brilliantly at short gully. West Indies had already lost all their specialist batsmen except Denesh Ramdin. They had not played even 50 overs while they were yet to reach the 170-run mark. The ball was turning big. Yet Sammy slog swept Ashwin's next delivery, another turner, with a face that declared a pre-determined intent to clear the ground, except the leading edge did not even cross the 30-yard circle. A member of the West Indies management clearly showed his frustration at the selection of the captain's shot.
What really was Sammy thinking? Did he even consider playing the situation? What happened to his statement after the Kolkata defeat about learning from the pair of Rohit Sharma and Ashwin, whose record double-century partnership, had punctured West Indies' spirits decisively.
Sammy's position in the team had already been questioned going into the match. Michael Holding, former West Indies fast bowler, speaking on ESPNcricinfo's Match Point was categorical in saying Sammy did not deserve to hold a place in the team as an allrounder. According to Holding, Sammy could not adapt to the demands of a Test batsman while as a bowler he was mediocre. Just being a cheerleader, Holding pointed out, was not helping West Indies win matches.
To defend himself Sammy might send this retort to Holding: he averages 25.4 when he comes in to bat with West Indies five down or more for less than 200 runs. This is more than his career average of 21.60. His solitary Test century and three of his four half-centuries have come in these innings. But ridiculous shot selections like today and in Kolkata just diminish the importance of those numbers.
Regardless, the question about his worth in the Test team will not die down. Sammy is an impressive leader in the shorter formats where his players like to express themselves in the manner they like - be aggressive. Sammy himself contributes in all three departments with influential performances, but in the Tests he does not have the same kind of respect, the same level of influence that he can extract the best out of his players.
West Indies' last six wickets have averaged 11.38 in this series - the lowest they have averaged for their last six wickets in any series in Tests. Sadly, all the main batsmen for West Indies, men who have the ability to have an impact on the match, have failed miserably.
Chris Gayle is playing his 99th Test. Sadly, he has sleepwalked so far on this tour. Darren Bravo once again got the start but threw it away with hanging his bat to a turning away delivery against Ashwin.
Marlon Samuels was made to look like he was walking over a bed of hot coal by Mohammed Shami today. In Kolkata it was the reverse swing that Samuels found hard to negotiate. On a hard Wankhede pitch, Samuels was at large trying hard to figure out which way Shami was moving the ball. In the end, Samuels charged two successive balls but it only turned out to be a hit-and-miss exercise.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 150th Test was ruined as he failed to counter the away swing and seam movement that Bhuvneshwar Kumar got off the pitch and in the air. Chanderpaul in the end was squared up and edged to slips.
Ramdin can watch himself in the mirror and get embarrassed at the moment he decided to unfurl the piece of paper on which was scribbled in capital letters: " "YEH, VIV, TALK NAH."" after scoring a century in the Edgbaston Test against England in 2011. Ramdin apologised immediately to Richards, who had been critical of the Trinidadian for being inconsistent. Ramdin has just one century after that match, against Bangladesh.
Even the tailend pair of Tino Best and Shane Shillingford today played irresponsibly to get out when they had seen Ashwin, India's No. 8, score a match-turning century.
It is unclear what West Indies have really learned from Kolkata. Their batsmen remain distracted. Their bowlers continue to spray the ball all round. Their captain is under pressure. To make matters worse, West Indies do not have a batting coach after Toby Radford joined Glamorgan recently.
Sammy and West Indies might point out that they have not played Test cricket after March. But it's the same case with India. So clearly it is a question of adapting in the mind and being ready than trying to look for reasons. After their victory in the World T20 and Test victories against New Zealand (home), Bangladesh (away) and Zimbabwe (home), there has been talk about West Indies, now No. 6 on the ICC Test rankings, being on the road to recovery. But have West Indies really turned the corner?
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