West Indies v India, 1st ODI, Trinidad June 6, 2011

Dhawan, Sarwan and an indifferent start to the series

The struggles of Shikhar Dhawan and Ramnaresh Sarwan are typical of the struggles of their respective sides: India have done just enough to beat their opposition, while West Indies need a huge lift if they are to compete

In some ways Shikhar Dhawan and Ramnaresh Sarwan reflect India's and West Indies' start to this series. It's not meant as disrespect but Dhawan bats in the way a good batsman would do when he is out of form. There are occasional flashes of class - a sweet on-the-up punch through point and a caressed off drive - but he would soon relapse into a mini-struggle. The timing flees, the bat-face shuts and he starts to jab and stab. He rarely plays straight. And suddenly, the good shots reappear. Like Dhawan, India neither dominated nor struggled, but did just enough to overcome the opposition. There have been phases where they sparkle interspersed with periods where they slip into autopilot. It's early days yet, and their progress towards domination should be interesting to track.

In domestic cricket Dhawan is a very good player of the pull shot; at times, in the IPL, he was beaten for pace when attempting pulls against international bowlers. In Dhawan, you can see the difference between the first-class and the international level. In Dhawan, you can also see the ambition, and struggle, of a first-class batsman to try bridging that gap. It showed in his reaction when he reached his fifty. With more confidence, he can perhaps bridge the gap. Perhaps. India, though, certainly can do better. They aren't batting as well as they can. It's been said that India has a tendency to raise their game or go down according to the level of the opposition and this series promises more evidence of the same.

West Indies haven't quite got their act together yet. In both games so far, the batsmen have shown an alarming tendency to meander. When Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels were stitching together a sluggish partnership, the local radio crackled with anger and agony. The commentator couldn't hide his disappointment at their approach and said, "It looks as if they are playing for their lives, to stay in the team for the next game".

The pity is that Sarwan, who used to be decent against spin, gives the impression that he is batting from memory. The fluency isn't there. These days, Sarwan has handcuffed himself into almost solely playing square of the wicket. The off drives, on drives and the straight drives are conspicuous by their absence. He looks to cut or square-drive nearly every ball. When the line and the length don't suit those two options, he jabs and remains scoreless. The pressure increases.

Sarwan later said that he wasn't at his best yet. "I'm still not my fluent self, but I will go back to the nets tomorrow. I have a few things I have to work on and be ready for the match on Wednesday. From here on I will be looking to improve even more and do better for the team."

Samuels improved at the end of his knock and Sarwan couldn't quite do it but it's clear that this West Indies team is yet to get confident enough to test India, especially on these slow tracks. Through the Pakistan series and during the first four days of this tour, Sammy has been frank in his assessment of his batsmen's fumbling ways against spin. He has said the right things. That they need to rotate the strike, that they can't get bogged down, that they need to use their feet or sweep and that they are working on all these things with Desmond Haynes in the nets. It hasn't quite translated yet to the middle. The sooner it does, the better it would be for this series.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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  • skepticaloptimist on June 8, 2011, 1:09 GMT

    @Darshankumaar Bhavsar - Yes, he likes to take his time to get going. But, it should be noted that unlike many others, he settles in by rotating the strike. He doesn't let the pressure build on himself. Considering his big shots, he CAN play the big shots. But if you mean all-muscle slogs, like the ones Gayles, Dhonis, Pollards can play, then, NO, Badri can't play those. I feel that he's more like in Tendulkar mold. Just to clarify, I'm not comparing him to the Great SRT, but I feel that Badri employs the techniques that Tendulkar does, now a days: take the ones and twos, be severe on bad balls, and improvise if needed. @indiazen - I'll rephrase that: those who succeed in Tests can potentially shine in ODIs and T20s. Definitely, the technique is there is you can succeed in tests, but limited over cricket is so, so much about courage. WI seriously need Gayle and Pollard back. They are, despite their inconsistency, WI's match-winners. WI can't afford to keep them out.

  • mithun2880 on June 7, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    I think Sriram Veera haven't read the way pitch was behaving. It was a two paced wicket, also had a tennis ball like bounce after the initial overs.It was unusual to see majority of the batters struggling to time the ball, it wasn't just Dhawan n Sarwan struggling but same followed with the free stroking Rohit Sharma.Also the situation demanded to stay and play yourself before playing some big shots.

  • dummy4fb on June 7, 2011, 10:05 GMT

    @harryrockz ya mate u r sure on badri's ability but he's not sure..he can play those sweeps n reverse but not big shots....when team required more than 8 per over then badri is not ideal..he is better suited to tests..parthiv n badri cant clear fields like dhni n yuvi or sehwag or any hitter....i think in odi uthappa is ideal choice for big hits or rayudu ..

  • mogan707 on June 7, 2011, 8:32 GMT

    I guess the nerves of the batsmen of Indian team still did not settle in.Hope they calm their nerves with this victory and raise their game.

  • Idrique on June 7, 2011, 8:16 GMT

    Bowling came out gud for India but i think we are going to struggle with the batting order throughout the tornament.. there are absolutely no pairs in our team at the moment a pair that can build an innings and take the team through.. it seems like a gud time to experiment.. sending yusuf pathan to open the innings could be one of them..

  • indianzen on June 7, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    I don't know why people compare the formats of the game. only in this sport we have options to change the format of the game. As far as I am concerned players who play good test cricket will definitely shine in ODI and in T20. The fire is missing in the bowling department. No Roach, no Fiddy, no Taylor... Ravi and sarwan are struggling alone...

  • harryrockz on June 7, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    @ Darshankumaar Bhavsar: Sorry but I think you had net followed the IPL. Badrinath can get the big shots. Its not that he is playing an ODI like a 3 day match or a test match. In this match there was time for our batsmen to consolidate and keep the score board ticking. In case our team needs 7 or 8 per over, I am sure that Badri can deliver. He has the capability and has done that in IPL for CSK. He may have been a bit slow bcoz the pitch was like that. It was slow and turning and Bishoo was bowling a good spell. Even Dhawan struggled then. But the difference is Dhawan got a 50 and Badri didn't. But still have to wait for the series to be over to rate the players like Dhawan, Badri, Tiwari, Saha, Vinay Kumar, Parthiv (even though Parthiv has played some series earlier, he is coming back after a hiatus) and Ashwin(he is playing his first full overseas series for India, if I am correct). So don't rate a player on a single performance. wait...

  • Vijayendra on June 7, 2011, 6:13 GMT

    Good article Sriram. You're writing some great stuff about this inane and dull series. Yes, Dhawan didn't look the part to be honest. And Sriram aptly put it when he said, "Dhawan's struggles were those of a batsman trying hard to bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket". India's opening combination is skewed -- Dhawan and Patel, the two lefties, are not exactly Hayden and Gilchrist. So India will continue to struggle to get out of the blocks with some quick runs at the top. Virat looks like a batsman who wanted a 'break' but couldn't ask! The Caribbeans can be very 'distracting' place when you are out-of-form.

  • Midonoff on June 7, 2011, 6:06 GMT

    I think the WI team bowled well. They just need to get more runs so they can give the bowlers a chance. I like the enthusiasm of Martin. We cannot change a bowler who is doing a good job, is the batsman who has to dig in.

  • RISHI2016 on June 7, 2011, 5:33 GMT

    had mr veera said the same thing if some badrinath would have scored same score like dhawan did ?

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