Sammy banks on fast pitch
There's hope in the Caribbean air. You can feel it at Sabina Park. You can hear it in the chuckle of Charles Josephs, the curator, and in conversations with ground staff. "This is Jamaica. Not Mumbai. The ball will bounce and get your men," is its essence. A simple, age-old theory: bounce the Indians and expect them to wilt. Though we'll have to wait to see how the pitch actually plays, and whether West Indies' fast bowlers can unsettle India's batsmen, it can only be a good thing that home fans are approaching the Test with optimism, considering the shenanigans beyond the boundary.
There is confidence in the West Indian camp as well. Darren Sammy, the captain, expects the pitch to suit his bowlers, who will be aggressive. Even young Darren Bravo said "a few of the Indians can get intimidated." Ian Bishop, a former West Indian fast bowler and commentator, isn't convinced a few Indian players, Suresh Raina for instance, can handle the bounce and pace.
"This is the pitch that suits our style," Sammy said. "We managed to restrict India to 250 and the batters were very comfortable chasing it. The mindset is different, the batsmen are confident that the ball won't spin like it did in the first three ODIs. Records speak that if you have more firepower, you have a better chance against India."
Sammy's presence in the Test side is still a thorny issue, though. Does he upset the balance? Wouldn't Fidel Edwards or Andre Russell be a better pick? Is Sammy weakening the attack? "My role has been the same since I started playing for West Indies," Sammy said. "I am a stock bowler. I go out and do it to the best of my ability." If he can be a consistent performer with the bat, it wouldn't be so bad. "I am disappointed that my Test batting hasn't been as consistent as it should be, but I am working hard."
Sammy expects West Indies to restrict India to less than 300. "In the last two games played here, the most recent one was against England, both teams scored around 300 in first innings. The one before was against Australia. We lost by 60 runs. We restricted them to just over 250. If we restrict them [India] to under 300 or so and can get a lead …"
West Indies' batting, though, has been the discipline with the most problems in the recent past. Sammy is confident that Kingston's conditions will help. "Our batsmen will favour their chances against Indian bowlers knowing the type of wicket we will get," he said. "Harbhajan is very experienced and Mishra has given us some trouble. You can't be complacent. This wicket would be suited to our batsmen. I am expecting our batsmen to give a better show."
Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, who comprise the top order, are light on experience, but Sammy highlighted their quality. "Barath is very promising cricketer. He scored a hundred in his first Test. He is coming back from injury but we all know his mental strength. He has the mental capability to carry on with his starts. Young Darren Bravo came to form in the last ODI and Simmons is in good nick. He knows his game and executes his plans. The top order might be short of experience but they have the game to do it."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo