Sammy satisfied after batsmen step up
Batting has been West Indies' major worry in the recent past, but an improved performance in Barbados that helped them save the second Test earned praise from their captain Darren Sammy. He admitted India - who perhaps would have chosen otherwise had Chris Gayle been playing - made a sporting declaration, perhaps keeping West Indies' fragility with the bat in mind, and that he was satisfied with the team's approach in their chase of 281 and the end result.
"We believed we had a chance of getting the target," Sammy said. "The coach outlined the stages, and by tea and with15 overs left, we were right on target. But we lost more wickets than we anticipated, and we don't have control over the weather. I think Ravi Rampaul has shown he is capable of batting for long periods. [Devendra] Bishoo as well. We never know what could have happened. I am happy that we ended with a draw and we could go to Dominica and try to level the series."
Four Tests into this season, West Indies' batting has looked frail, though there were positives in this Test. Marlon Samuels sparkled in the first innings and Darren Bravo gritted it out in the second. Samuels was fiercely focussed and Bravo promised to be the future. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the senior-most batsmen, batted for lengthy periods in both innings and Carlton Baugh, under pressure, showed excellent character in the second. Most of the pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place. A couple of tricky ones are not. Lendl Simmons hasn't looked convincing at the Test level and Ramnaresh Sarwan has continued to flounder.
"We could do much better, but at least we saw guys taking a little bit of responsibility and scoring some runs for us," Sammy said. "Samuels' innings was very good for us. He batted for a long time and had a long partnership with Shiv [Chanderpaul]. Bravo and Baugh did well in the second innings. We still have lot of room for improvement. We are not getting 300 runs on the board. If we can get runs, we can put pressure on India."
Baugh's unbeaten 46 under pressure would have warmed the cockles of West Indian hearts. It was he who increased the possibility of an unlikely victory. Bravo set it up with a very responsible knock, Chanderpaul helped it linger before his effort was cut short by an umpiring error and Baugh nearly brought it to fruition.
With regard to Chanderpaul's lbw, Sammy said: "With DRS system, these things could be avoided but that's been part of problem for long time. People will make mistakes. It's up to us."
When Baugh walked in after Chanderpaul's dismissal, the Kensington Oval was alive and buzzing. It was the best crowd of the series so far. Entry was free on the final day and by tea a fair number of people had come in. There was hope in the Caribbean air. "The way Carlton came out and batted was great. He was under pressure, and he and Bravo really steadied us. I have spoken about Bravo before. Since he made his Test debut in Sri Lanka, he has done very well. All sportsmen go through a bit of [a bad] patch. It showed his character, how he batted for team. He put us in a position where we could win or draw."
Before the Baugh-Bravo pairing got the crowd excited, West Indies batted in a measured fashion. After the openers and Sarwan had been dismissed, Chanderpaul and Bravo ensured there was no collapse. "We had a game plan. We just wanted to bat as long as possible," Sammy said. "Play normal cricket. We have batsmen who will score runs. We have boundary-hitters. So we knew that with 15 overs to go if we needed 90 runs or so with seven batsmen left, we could get to the target. Unfortunately, we lost a few wickets."
In the end, the rain helped extricate West Indies from a tricky position. Sammy was asked whether he felt West Indies can beat India. "Of course. We have to score more runs. We restrict them to low totals but they restrict us to even lower totals. Had we scored 350 in the first innings, we could have had a lead of 150 and it could have been a different ball game. We will beat India when we, as a batting unit, put up scores."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo