West Indies v India, 2nd Test, Barbados June 27, 2011

No longer a fortress

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
India have never won a Test in Barbados, but will start confidently knowing that West Indian supremacy at the venue is a thing of the past

A proud record tarnished
Going by West Indies' abysmal Test record in recent years, the fact that the Kensington Oval in Barbados was once an impregnable fortress for the home side would come as a shock to many. After a four-wicket loss in the second match at the venue in 1935, West Indies did not lose a single Test in Barbados for the next 59 years till the 208-run defeat against England in 1994. Between 1978 and 1993, in a period of extraordinary dominance, West Indies won 12 consecutive Tests at the venue. Following the defeat against England in 1994, West Indies lost the first Test of the series against Australia in 1995. This defeat was a precursor to their first home-series defeat in 22 years. Although they were no longer a force in Barbados, West Indies managed to squeeze out close wins against India and Australia in 1997 and 1999. While India, who were chasing only 120 in the third Test of the 1996-97 series, collapsed to be bowled out for 81, it was Brian Lara's unbeaten 153 that helped West Indies achieve a one-wicket win against Australia in 1999.

However, since the start of the 2000s, the record at the venue has been far from encouraging. West Indies have won only two Tests and lost six since 2000. While Australia, England and South Africa have asserted their superiority over West Indies in Barbados in recent times, India are yet to win a Test at the venue. In 2002, India went 1-0 up in the series after the win in Trinidad, only to lose the series 2-1 after defeats in Barbados and Jamaica. After a comfortable win in the first Test, a buoyant India will look at this as a perfect opportunity to erase a dismal record at a venue where they have lost seven out of eight Tests. West Indies, on the other hand, will look to draw inspiration from their record at the venue in the 1980s and 1990s, when they went on to win 14 out of 17 Tests.

West Indies's record in Barbados over the years
Period Matches Won Lost Draw W/L ratio
1930-1969 11 3 1 7 3.00
1970s 7 2 0 5 -
1980s 7 7 0 0 -
1990s 10 7 2 1 3.50
2000-2011 11 2 6 3 0.33

All-round decline for West Indies
West Indies dominated visiting teams in Barbados Tests in both the batting and bowling departments for much of the 1970s and 1980s. While their batting average was very good in the 1970s, the bowling performance was still not very impessive. However, in the 1980s, the difference between the batting and bowling averages was nearly 18. In the same period, the figure was -26 for Australia and -21 for England. Only Pakistan, who had an excellent fast-bowling attack, came close to matching the performance of West Indies in the 1980s. In the next decade, the difference between West Indies and other teams was much more narrow. England and Australia, who won a Test each in Barbados during the 1990s, did much better than in previous years. India bowled superbly in their only game in 1997, but struggled with the bat against a quality West Indian attack. In Tests since 2000, Australia and England have been the outstanding batting sides among visiting teams while South Africa, who have a bowling average of just over 23, have been the best bowling side by far. The average difference of -7.88 for the West Indies is their lowest since the start of 1970.

Performance of teams in Barbados since 1970 (batting avg/bowling avg)
Period West Indies Australia England India Pakistan South Africa
1970s 46.94/33.90 32.87/40.76 39.52/74.50 28.20/58.45 36.30/37.33 -
1980s 41.05/23.24 26.30/53.00 18.35/39.33 26.45/48.18 30.05/31.88 -
1990s 31.57/28.73 27.26/29.46 38.68/32.56 20.00/21.90 24.15/48.40 24.65/27.25
2000-2011 29.64/37.48 52.12/30.37 59.90/36.79 19.90/39.90 28.51/36.64 38.87/23.31

Visiting teams dominate pace-bowling stats
Over the years, Barbados has proved to be a pace-friendly wicket. In Tests since 1970, fast bowlers have picked up 863 wickets at an average of 29.38 and strike rate of 57.9. Spinners have struggled to make inroads though; they average 43.16 at a strike rate of 94.1 in the same period. West Indian pace bowlers were at their dominant best in the 1980s contributing to 131 dismissals in seven Tests (average of 19 per match). Their bowling average (21.03) and strike rate (42.7) are well above those of the visiting teams in that decade. Although their performance fell away in the 1990s, only Australia had better numbers (min two matches played in Barbados in the decade). The stats since 2000 provide the perfect illustration of how poor West Indian pace attacks have become in recent years. Their average (35.55) and strike rate (68.2) are extremely poor, and have been surpassed by South Africa, Pakistan and England. A major deterrent to their success in the period has been the fact that the home fast bowlers have only managed to pick up under 11 wickets per game (119 in 11 Tests).

Pace bowlers in Barbados Tests since 1970 (Average, Strike rate) - min 100 overs bowled
Period West Indies Australia England India Pakistan New Zealand South Africa
1970s 27.71, 60.1 35.31, 74.4 - - 30.58, 58.5 28.66, 59.4 -
1980s 21.03, 42.7 44.44, 74.8 30.04, 52.5 45.33, 79.4 29.76, 51.2 - -
1990s 27.76, 58.3 25.78, 53.8 31.31, 55.2 21.33, 42.5 48.66, 68.8 49.30, 101.1 26.84, 48.3
2000-2011 35.55, 68.2 31.30, 68.4 33.86, 63.0 48.16, 100.0 34.88, 63.0 21.23, 43.3 21.30, 45.5

Consistency issues for top-order batsmen
While the lack of bowling quality has been the biggest reason for West Indies' struggles, inconsistent batting performances have also contributed significantly to their woes. For nearly 15 years from 1975-76, the prolific top-order of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Viv Richards was responsible for setting up highly competitive scores which more often than not proved unassailable for most teams given the strength of the West Indian bowling. However, since their retirements in the early 1990s, the top-order performances have drastically declined. The contrast is most evident in the stats for the second wicket in Barbados Tests; in the 1980s, there were five century stands for the second wicket at an average over 90. In the 1990s, however, the second-wicket partnership averaged just 28 without a single century stand. In matches since 2000, the middle order (wickets 4-6) has done much better than the top order (wickets 1-3). While the top-order has featured in four century partnerships and nine half-century partnerships at an average of 29.28, the middle order averages 47.37 with nine century stands and nine half-century stands.

Partnership stats for West Indies in Barbados Tests since 1970 (Avg, 100/50)
Period 1st wicket 2nd wicket 3rd wicket 4th wicket 5th wicket 6th wicket
1970s 48.36, 2/2 79.70, 3/2 44.30, 1/1 43.80, 1/2 30.90, 0/1 84.77, 4/0
1980s 46.90, 1/2 90.30, 5/3 32.11, 0/3 35.77, 0/3 53.88, 2/1 51.22, 2/2
1990s 48.00, 2/5 28.00, 0/5 39.82, 2/1 54.35, 4/4 29.47, 1/1 34.00, 2/2
2000-2011 30.10, 1/3 27.15, 2/2 30.60, 1/4 56.95, 4/4 45.84, 3/3 38.84, 2/2

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sherman on June 29, 2011, 3:49 GMT

    @InsideHedge You are so correct! Ambrose and Walsh were the last true soldiers. Lara for all his runs could rarely change a game. In the Lloyd/Richards era WI had the ability pull off stunning victories. I remember against India in '83 with Gavaskar opening the innings on the final day India were routed and the batters used one session and the 20 mandatory overs to chase over 300 runs and win! I also remember bowlers like Winston Benjamin batting WI to victory against Akram, Waqar and Qadir against Pak! The team now is known for stunning defeats from winning positions.

  • Dummy4 on June 29, 2011, 0:38 GMT

    WI have a great opportunity to start winning. Even though the honours are even today. WI have a slight edge,since SARS,SHIV,SAM r still around. THESE r our most experience batters. The bowling was superb. Again I say WI need to bat for 125overs at a RR of 3.25+ & the match is theirs. That is not a difficult task. If it is then the aforementioned batters should not B in the team.

  • Sanjay on June 28, 2011, 23:13 GMT

    The first evidence of the WI decline was there to see in the mid 90s. SA in their 1st ever visit to the WI came oh-so close to winning the series. I rem Pak would have done so had they not received some umpiring howlers. But the biggest hint was Zimbabwe almost winning a Test. Almost always, it was Ambrose and to an extent Walsh that would rescue WI from what appeared certain defeats. It became clear that even if one of these two retired - esp. Ambrose - WI would be in deep trouble. And so it proved. Walsh/Ambrose were their last two standing soldiers, fighting to the last. The players that have followed lack the desire and commitment. Even a genius like Lara had serious attitude issues, he can never be spoken of in the same breath as any member of the Lloyd era. The generation that followed the Lloyd era lack the professionalism that preceded them, they have the talent but all too often take the easy route. It's either party-time OR blame the WICB.

  • giovaughn on June 28, 2011, 16:35 GMT

    @ donda even b4 the 70's we were beating England India & Pakistan both home & away + we were partly responsible for the greatest test series ever vs Australia with the tied test match so your comment is very inaccurate even in the 90's whenever India and England came to the Caribbean they would get a good whipping more often than not

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 15:04 GMT

    This article is true of course, but isn't this old news? It's 2011 now- maybe time to stop harping on West Indian decline?

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    thier is some problem with the westindes cricketing board when they get some high scoring players and an oppurtunity to get some ratings in the test rating board they r trying to test the younger players ......what kind of a logic is this? they r not fighting at the first but just trying to start at the 2nd or 3rd.

  • Nivek on June 28, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    @donda.....So two decades of complete dominance don't mean anything to you? Please don't embarass the rest of us Indians with comments like these..

  • spirit on June 28, 2011, 6:35 GMT

    @donda..i m an indian and ur comments is a disgrace to WI team and for cricket in general,they dominated the world cricket in 1970's & 1980's and that domination was not matched by any team till date,to say that WI's record wud have been same as that of NZ without those 1980's result is naive,can u list india's record except for the last three years and prove me that they were good enough,i remember india struggling outside india 95% of their cricketing history,at home india is doing well but so does WI for most part of their history,this is a public forum where u represent ur countries views,arrogance is the last thing to show here

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2011, 5:56 GMT

    @all Let them play instead we talk. Though India is the clear favorite WI are still strong enough to face the Indian batting order and screw it to the most as we seen in the first test. Though bounce and wrong umpiring is given as the excuse still the fresh face of the team is yet to be tested.

  • Himanshu on June 28, 2011, 4:03 GMT

    it is absolutely useless to state past records or stats here. When WI dominated on this ground, most players from either sides were not even born. those who did were mere toddlers. So that does nto mean a thing. What matters is that this Indian side, which did not play its best and had a harder luck, is a far better side than the WI. Even if Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir and Zak are missing, it still has a better bowling and far better feilding and batting unit that the Windies. Most importantly this is a World Champoin side that is on top of test rankings too. This confidence pulls them out of tough situations and does not let them go of commanding situations. Last test is a perfect example. Assuming that India will learn from last test and improve its show, WI has no chance int he remaining two test here.

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