Sammy takes heart from 'positive intent'
There are two ways to look at this West Indies performance. The first is with hope: after all this was the first display of intent after two comatose performances. At 175 for 2, a total of 270 looked a possibility. The second is to look at it with a touch of weariness over yet another collapse. Hope or a sinking deja vu? Take your pick.
The start oozed promise.Lendl Simmons is a batsman who has the nous, and the guts, to seize the little moments. Sometimes he gets ahead of himself; the adrenalin kicks in as it did in the previous game. However, he displayed a more controlled aggression today. It was in the second over of Amit Mishra that he set the tone. Until then he had confidently taken on the seamers but it was always going to be a battle between West Indies' batsmen and India's spinners. Mishra beat him couple of times in his first over and tossed it up on a length at the start of the second. The West Indies camp has been talking about sweeping and using their feet to the spinners for a while now but has rarely walked the talk. Simmons swept Mishra to the boundary and the crowd cheered. A few overs later, he went down on his knee to lift Harbhajan Singh over wide midwicket boundary for a six. The crowd danced. He then crashed Yusuf Pathan over long-on. Rum flowed in the stands. The sun was out.
In the dressing room Darren Sammy, as he later revealed, moved towards Marlon Samuels and reminded him of the 108 Samuels had scored against India in India. Samuels told him that it was at the top of his mind. The mood was upbeat in the camp. In the middle, Harbhajan was leaking runs and so was Yusuf. Only Amit Mishra was bowling decently. When Samuels entered, he added to India's woes. He rotated the strike, something he was guilty of not doing well in the recent games. His captain has always supported him, saying that he was just rusty. In the 35th over Samuels leaned forward to cream Mishra to cover boundary. In the next, he pulled and lofted Yusuf for a four and a six.
It looked a day of hope but the wheels soon came off. Both Simmons and Samuels fell, stumped. It's easy to put it down to adrenalin but that would be too convenient. Perhaps, Simmons thought he was set and it was time for some action but he was done in by a ball that was pushed well down the leg side. Should Samuels have shown more discretion in the same over that he had hit two boundaries? Perhaps, he thought the moment was hot to lay into Yusuf, who is not one of the frontline bowlers. He tried but was done in by a good ball from Yusuf. It was a lot slower, wider and went almost straight.
It was the beginning of the end. And made you look at the day again: with that familiar sense of weariness at West Indian collapses. Here they go again. "We got ourselves into good position while we were batting; at least we showed intent as we said in team meeting," Sammy said later.
So should one be happy or sad? "You can't be happy when you lost. It's more like the guys showed improvement. Unless the first game where there was lack of intent, it was very different. Right from the top. They showed positive intent. When you show such intent runs come easily. Samuels looks very good after two years. Sarwan also is showing consistency. I have always told Sars [Ramnaresh Sarwan] that he was once compared to Michael Bevan; he is the finisher for us. I still have that belief in him. The more confident he gets, the better it will be for us." The bowling, which has stood strong in the last few months, fell through today. "We had the belief especially after the way we bowled on Monday, trying to defend 214," Sammy said. "It was crucial to get early wickets but we couldn't manage to apply the pressure, consistently and long enough. Kohli gave a chance to me at slip but I missed. That could have been a crucial turning point." For a change, Devendra Bishoo didn't sparkle. Sammy delayed the introduction of spin and perhaps that was a mistake. He, though, didn't agree when a journalist brought it up. "That's just [your] impression. Bishoo is still young and new to international cricket. [The] Indians played spin better than us. Bishoo has played every game [but] obviously he is still young at this level. It's okay that he had a slight off day. I won't judge him because [of that]. There is nothing to worry about. Martin is just playing his fourth ODI."
Sammy was also asked about the possibility of resting Bishoo and not "over-exposing" him. His answer seemed to suggest that he agreed with the questioner. "Bishoo is quite young. Because he has done well, there is tendency to play him every game. Maybe his body is not really used to this type of work load. That's something the selectors will have to think about. Hopefully they will take that in consideration."
He ended on a hopeful note about the state of the pitch for the third ODI. "Antigua has more pace bounce and there was not much spin when we played last there. Hopefully they will prepare something that will suit us and it will feel like home series for us."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo