West Indies v India, 3rd Test, St Lucia, 5th day August 13, 2016

Indian pacers seek out West Indies' technical faults

In a race against time to bowl out West Indies on day five, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma probed away with ruthless efficiency to help secure victory with a session to spare
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Manjrekar: Young WI batsmen are not trained to be Test players

Batting is simple. If it's full, you go on the front foot. If it's short, you go back.

Batting becomes increasingly difficult as you move up the quality ladder and come up against bowlers who test your judgment by hitting an in-between length with increasing frequency. At Test level, bowlers do this more often than anywhere else. Batsmen who get that far are the ones most adept at dealing with this challenge. They judge length better, and are better able to identify which balls pitching in that great grey area known as a good length need to be negotiated on the front foot and which ones by staying back.

On Saturday, faced with the task of surviving 87 overs to save the third Test against India, West Indies kept failing this test.

India bowled well to bowl them out, but at times it felt like they only had to keep hitting a good length to induce errors from the batsmen. It is exactly how a team must bowl on a pitch such as this one, with true pace and bounce and offering no extravagant seam movement or turn. Yet, even bowling at their best, India must have expected to fight for their wickets, expected the fight to last at least halfway into the final session. Instead, they bowled West Indies out in 47.3 overs and won a match that lost an entire day to rain, by 237 runs.

West Indies' troubles started right at the top. Kraigg Brathwaite is among the more solid batsmen in West Indies' line-up: patient outside off stump, willing to wait for balls in his strong areas, and can bat long periods. But his technique isn't without its faults. Bhuvneshwar Kumar exposed two of them with a full ball angling into the stumps and straightening just a touch. The ball was certainly full enough to play on the front foot. Brathwaite did not make any kind of stride towards the ball and remained camped in his crease.

To add to his problems, Brathwaite plays with open shoulders, and is nearly chest-on to the bowler at times. This leaves him at risk of playing across the line even when he is notionally trying to present the full face of the bat. He certainly attempted to do this against Bhuvneshwar. But instead of starting roughly over off stump, or even from the direction of first slip, and finishing pointing down the V, Brathwaite's bat came down from third slip and finished pointing wide of mid-on. A bit of movement and the ball missed his outside edge and would have the stumps. End result: out lbw.

The lack of footwork compounded the skewed alignment. Had Brathwaite been closer to the pitch of the ball, he would have been at less risk of missing it, or even edging it, even if he had played slightly across the line.

Marlon Samuels is another batsman who camps in his crease. On Saturday he camped in the crease and made life more dangerous for himself by attempting limited-overs shots. Against Bhuvneshwar, he tried a shot straight out of the T20 manual: clear front leg, ignore the length of the ball, and biff it over the top. He was lucky to miss, and lucky the ball was wide of the stumps.

Then, having somehow survived 26 balls, he tried to cut Ishant Sharma off his stumps. The ball was at that in-between length, seaming in towards off stump, and Samuels has often had trouble playing those kinds of balls even with a straight bat. He tried to cut it, with his back foot staying stuck on leg stump, and did this with his team trying to save a Test match. Samuels missed, Ishant hit.

Ishant does not hit the stumps anywhere near as much as he should, and has often been criticised for it, even in the days leading up to this Test match. It is only appropriate to praise him, then, on a day when he bowled a length and line that allowed him to threaten the stumps far more often.

Ishant Sharma's improved accuracy in the second innings made him a handful to West Indies' right-hand batsmen © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In the first innings of this Test, Ishant's pitch map against right-hand batsmen showed most of his deliveries distributed along a line parallel to the pitch, outside off stump. In the second, his deliveries were distributed along a line slanting into the stumps, suggesting he was frequently bowling from wider on the crease. By doing so, he created an angle that exaggerated the movement of his incoming delivery, and heightened the effect of the odd ball he could straighten. He was, quite simply, at the batsman.

In the second Test in Jamaica, Roston Chase had been able to leave 17 of the 38 balls he faced from Ishant during the course of his unbeaten, match-saving second-innings 137. Here, all but one of the eight balls he faced from the same bowler were on course to hit the stumps, or threatening to hit them. The eighth ball actually hit them, after seaming in and finding the gap between bat and pad.

Ishant attacked Roston Chase's stumps far more in the second innings at St Lucia (right) compared to Jamaica (left) © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Once again for a West Indies batsman, Chase's footwork was at fault. Pause the replay of his dismissal at the point where the ball goes past his inside edge and note the position of his front foot. It is coming forward, but the stride is short, and it has only just landed, on its heel. Chase was a split-second slow with his footwork. Other batsmen may have transferred their weight fully on to the front foot by that point, and narrowed the angle of the seam movement enough to be able to negotiate it.

It was perhaps the least worst of the errors West Indies' batsmen committed on Saturday. But in conjunction with the rest, it painted a troubling picture.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • john on August 16, 2016, 8:27 GMT

    Rohit only has two centuries from 17 test matches, Cheteshwar Pujara had six centuries after 17 test matches including a two double centuries and a 150 plus score after 17 test matches. Cheteshwar Pujara has played 34 matches, but at 28 he should not be discarded at test cricket as his batting out time in the early overs makes it easier for the later order batsmen to score easily. The Lords test match in England was a example of this in 2014.

  • john on August 16, 2016, 8:14 GMT

    @ROBBY1985 : "you mean like Pujara has repeatedly failed overseas given chances time after time," The New Zealand series is at home, how would that impact on his overseas performance. He still has a batting average of 64.39 in India so certainly a good number 3 batsmen at home overseas he would improve his average if given the last test match against the West Indies this series. The West Indies is considered one of the worst bowling attacks in the last seven or eight years. If batting figures overseas is the criteria for home series selection Rohit Sharma's overseas test batting figures make even worse reading.

  • Robby1985a on August 16, 2016, 3:16 GMT

    Opto_pus, you mean like Pujara has repeatedly failed overseas given chances time after time, the full run of the series in England, Australia and New Zealand. They flashed a table during the second test to show he had the most matches and the least average of all batsmen in overseas matches for the last three years. Fortunately management is much more informed and will make the right decisions eventually.

  • john on August 15, 2016, 19:15 GMT

    The whole point of management is to realise what works and what does not, if a batsmen is expected to try something that is obviously beyond his abilities he will simply fail as Rohit has shown time and again in test matches.

  • john on August 15, 2016, 19:14 GMT

    It is high time the Indian team management realised that Rohit Sharma is not a test batsmen and never will be. There are better choices to make in test cricket Shreyas Iyer is an obvious choice for a middle order batsmen in test matches at 6. Rohit has been tried and has failed to all intents and purposes, he is best suited to One Day International cricket. The one thing I like about teams like England is they have different squads for different formats and do not seak to convert test match players like say Alastair Cook to a One day Players, if they are good like say Joe Root then they play in all formats otherwise there is plenty of room for specialisation take James Anderson and Stuart Broad these are test match bowlers and are seen as such they are never pressurised to become what they can't or do something out of the ordinary which is beyond their capability. (part 1)

  • john on August 15, 2016, 18:51 GMT

    Talking about about technical faults India should look no further than the Indian batsmen Rohit "nohit" Sharma this guy should not even make the test team in India unless it is against West India, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe at home. He is technically close to as useless, as any of the West Indians. The Indian management need to realise the best batting line up in India, England or Australia are 1. Lokesh Rahul 2. Murali Vijay 3. Cheteshwar Pujara 4. Virat Kohli 5. Ajinkya Rahane 6. Shreyas Iyer That is the batting line up India should start with in the New Zealand series if they want to bat to a 3-0 win, I believe the best bowling would be to use two spinners and two seamers in the four man bowling attack at home Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja as the spinners Ishwar Pandey and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as the seamers with Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami as seam bowling replacements to cover injuries.

  • Abhijeet on August 15, 2016, 14:31 GMT

    WestIndies seem to have lost all interest in test cricket.Any of India's top 3 ranji teams could have batted better than the current West Indies team.

  • Channan on August 14, 2016, 18:59 GMT

    Maybe we were all looking at a different game. None of the Indian batsmen were able to play comfortably on that wicket also. Even Kohli was cramped, and that was day 4. It didn't turn and bounce like hell, yet it was very difficult to bat on. Day 5 belonged to the pace bowlers. No disgrace for WI batters.

  • sam on August 14, 2016, 16:47 GMT

    Some of the people commenting here are missing the point. I completely agree in strokeplay WI are awesome. No international cricketing team producing more dazzling stroke players than WI. But in test cricket to survive you need a good defensive technique (and if you do not survive for long periods you wont score many runs). Otherwise you end up being a Rohit Sharma, a Marlon Samuels, a Suresh Raina, etc. Even Darren Bravo (easily WI's best batsmen) scores big only on flat pitches and his average is bumped up average vs BD. And in the current WI team nobody except Bravo, Kraig Brathwaithe and Roston Chase have even a decent defensive technique. And even their techniques have multiple flaws. Talent is most essential but these things are very difficult to be rectified at test level. It needs to happen during junior cricket. And that is where former greats have failed in nurturing young talent (from age 15-22). Talent is plenty but technique is not getting rectified at an young age.

  • Krish on August 14, 2016, 13:38 GMT

    Former WI team had some great stroke makers.The current team does too except that the opposition they play against is more skilled.WI management needs to hire a specialist batting coach-like say a Grant Flower or a Rahul Dravid like player who were great in the test match arena.Coached who can train young WI batsmen in the area of test match batting.

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