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Both teams had just lost their preceding series - West Indies in Australia, India in South Africa - so both had plenty to play for on India's first tour of the Caribbean for eight years. In the event, they were thoroughly frustrated by the weather.
A potentially gripping finish to the First Test was spoiled by rain on the last day and the final two Tests were so reduced that not even two innings could be completed. The first two of the four one-day internationals were disrupted and had to be decided by the unsatisfactory arrangement of revised targets.
The quality of the cricket was also diminished by slow, featureless pitches in the first two drawn Tests, prompting pleas from both captains for something livelier. They got more than they bargained for at Kensington Oval in Barbados. The hard, well-grassed surface unduly favoured the fast bowlers, who took all but two of the 40 wickets, and produced an astonishing climax. India capitulated for 81 on the fourth day when they needed just 120 for their first victory in the Caribbean for 21 years. West Indies' win was the only outright result of the series.
The exalted batsmen on both sides were seldom seen at their best. Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara had their moments, notably Tendulkar's dominant 92 in the first innings in Barbados, Lara's second-innings 78 off 83 balls in Jamaica and his more measured 103 in Antigua. More was expected of the world's two greatest batting stars. The unofficial contest within a contest, to determine the better player, was unresolved. But Lara earned more points for his handling of the team in Barbados, to win his first Test as captain when Courtney Walsh was injured.
Carl Hooper faded badly after a typically elegant 129 in the First Test and Mohammad Azharuddin, who had made three magnificent hundreds in the preceding home and away series against South Africa, was so pathetically out of sorts that his best score in eight innings in Tests and one-day internationals was 40. He was dropped on his return home.
Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the 22-year-old West Indies left-hander, and Rahul Dravid, the solid young Indian, prevailed over the conditions to enhance their reputations. Chanderpaul, retained at the No. 3 position to which he was promoted above Lara in Australia, finally gathered the Test and one-day hundreds that had so long eluded him, maintaining his consistency while adding power and range to his strokeplay. He was unchallenged as Man of the Series, an award covering both forms of the game. Dravid, his opposite number at No. 3, was similarly reliable, if comparatively slow, and confirmed the favourable impression he had made since his debut in England the previous summer.
Even though West Indies secured both series, the Tests 1-0 and the internationals 3-1, the teams were well matched. West Indies enjoyed the better of the First Test and India the better of the Second but neither had the resources - nor, in India's case, the confidence - to press home their advantage on pitches so sluggish they inhibited both batsmen and bowlers. The exciting scrap in Barbados provided a welcome spark but it was then extinguished by the uncooperative elements in Antigua and Guyana.
Both West Indies and India started with long-standing problems and finished with most unsolved. India were made to suffer for their heavy reliance on the penetrative fast bowling of Javagal Srinath when a recurring shoulder injury ruled him out of the game for at least six months after the first practice session of the tour. Their difficulties at the top of the order led to the revival of Navjot Singh Sidhu's chequered career, the need for his experience over-riding memories of his tetchy withdrawal from the England tour less than a year earlier and his subsequent ban. Sidhu's marathon 201 in the Second Test was a typically determined, single-minded effort. But whether, aged 33, he was the long-term remedy was open to question.
West Indies were no closer to finding a reliable opening pair either, and continued to play musical chairs with their wicket-keepers. The most encouraging development for each team was the emergence of a promising new fast bowler, Franklyn Rose for West Indies and Abey Kuruvilla for India. Rose, an athletic Jamaican well over six feet, had become so disenchanted with the game that he dropped out entirely the previous season. But his form in the Red Stripe Cup and injuries to other contenders gained him a Test debut. He was consistently West Indies' most penetrative bowler. With Walsh and Curtly Ambrose in the twilight of their careers, his arrival was timely. Mervyn Dillon, another tall, sinewy fast bowler in his first first-class season, showed distinct promise in his two Tests, but it was disappointing that, once again, West Indies could find no room for one of their clutch of young leg-spinners.
Kuruvilla, on his first tour, was said to be India's tallest-ever fast bowler at six feet six inches. He used his height, plus his control and variations of pace, learned under the early tutelage of Frank Tyson, to advantage. His consistency helped to compensate for Srinath's absence and the fatigue that took its toll on the worthy Venkatesh Prasad. But the role of stock bowler fell to the overworked leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who sent down more overs and took more wickets than anyone one either side.
At the end, the indelible images were less of dashing batting or incisive bowling than of ground staff trying to dry swampy outfields by the antiquated method of sponges and buckets.
INDIAN TOURING PARTY
S. R. Tendulkar (Mumbai) (captain), A. Kumble (Karnataka) (vice-captain), M. Azharuddin (Hyderabad), R. Dravid (Karnataka), D. Ganesh (Karnataka), S. C. Ganguly (Bengal), A. Jadeja (Haryana), S. B. Joshi (Karnataka), S. S. Karim (Bengal), A. Kuruvilla (Mumbai), V. V. S. Laxman (Hyderabad), N. R. Mongia (Baroda), B. K. V. Prasad (Karnataka), N. S. Sidhu (Punjab), R. R. Singh (Tamil Nadu), J. Srinath (Karnataka).
N. David (Hyderabad) replaced the injured Srinath.
Manager: D. V. Subba Rao. Coach: Madan Lal.
Test matches - Played 5: Lost 1, Drawn 4.
First-class matches - Played 8: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 6.
Win - Guyana.
Loss - West Indies.
Draws - West Indies (4), Jamaica, Barbados.
One-day internationals - Played 4: Won 1, Lost 3.
Other non-first-class match - Won v University of West Indies Vice-Chancellor's XI.
Match reports for