Tour review

India v West Indies in India, 2011-12

Test matches (3): India 2, West Indies 0
One-day internationals (5): India 4, West Indies 1


Darren Sammy and Fidel Edwards celebrate after a last-ball draw, India v West Indies, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 5th day, November 26, 2011
The next best thing: West Indies may not have won the Mumbai Test, but for captain Darren Sammy (left) and Fidel Edwards, a draw with the scores level feels almost as good. © AFP
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On India's tour of the Caribbean in 2005-06, Greg Chappell, then their coach, raised local hackles by suggesting West Indies had forgotten how to win. In the years that have followed, there has been little evidence to prove him wrong, with promising positions squandered at a despairing rate. The visit to India encapsulated that tendency: Darren Sammy's side claimed a first-innings lead in two of the three Tests, but failed to win either.

There were opportunities aplenty in the one-day series as well, after India sent out a weakened side, but again it was the home batsmen and bowlers who came through at the crucial moments. The scorelines did not reflect how competitive West Indies had been. But they were a consequence of their inability to close out a match. The tone was set in the First Test at Delhi, where a second-morning collapse was redeemed by a disciplined bowling display. But, armed with a lead of 95, West Indies batted poorly second time round. Instead of shutting India out, they could set them only the sort of target that no longer terrifies teams in an era of deterioration-proof pitches.

Much of the pre-series buzz had centred on Sachin Tendulkar and his quest for a 100th international hundred but, while that may have brought the crowds in, the headlines were stolen by a debutant. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took nine wickets with the composure of a veteran, and was superbly backed up by slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha as India's selectors looked to move on from Harbhajan Singh. With Zaheer Khan still unfit, there was also an opportunity for Umesh Yadav to make an impression: quick but raw, he had been added to the squad despite modest numbers in the first-class arena.

But what puzzled most onlookers after the debacle in England was the lack of new faces among the batsmen. Until Yuvraj Singh - battling cancer, though no one knew at the time - was sidelined before the final Test, there was no inclination to look to talents such as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman duly made centuries, while Tendulkar missed one by a stroke in Mumbai. But India learned nothing they didn't know already.

West Indies were in a different boat. Still at loggerheads with the board, Chris Gayle was now an itinerant Twenty20 specialist, while an off-colour Ramnaresh Sarwan had been omitted from the squad altogether. There was no option but to look to the future. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the only experienced hand, although it was strangely reassuring for the tourists that their best result - the thrilling draw in Mumbai, which finished with the scores level - came in the game he missed through a calf-muscle injury.

There were moments to savour from the talented Adrian Barath and Kirk Edwards, while Kraigg Brathwaite showed the adhesive qualities once associated with opening batsmen. The contributions of Marlon Samuels - back in the country for the first time since his ban for his association with an Indian bookmaker - were another positive. But the cynosure of most eyes was Darren Bravo, with the backlift and languid strokeplay so similar to those of Brian Lara, his mother's cousin. Having looked a leg-before candidate at Delhi, Bravo repaired to the nets to work on his technique against spin. The upshot was innings of 136 at Kolkata and 166 in Mumbai. On both occasions, it was striking how much time he had to play his shots.

West Indian bowling once terrified the locals - on their 1983-84 visit to India, Malcolm Marshall took 33 wickets in six Tests, and Michael Holding 30. But the crop led by Fidel Edwards, whose five Test wickets cost 66 each, and Ravi Rampaul struggled to make anything like the same impact. They bowled India out cheaply at Delhi and salvaged a draw in Mumbai, but the pasting they took at Kolkata laid bare the attack's limitations. It didn't help that the young leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo faded badly.

In the one-day series, India edged a close first game, but West Indies rarely performed as a unit and were thwarted by the young guard of Sharma, Kohli and, at the end, Manoj Tiwary. India rested several seniors, ostensibly to prepare for the tour of Australia, but the bouts of sloppiness that would prove costly against better opposition did not entirely go away.

Virender Sehwag's record-breaking 219 at Indore aside, he and Gautam Gambhir did not press on as they once had. The bowling was steady rather than intimidating. With transition imminent and the combination changed from one match to the next, India and Duncan Fletcher - who had assumed charge when the teams met in the Caribbean in June and July - were no closer to ascertaining their strongest XI.

Match reports for

1st Test: India v West Indies at Delhi, Nov 6-9, 2011
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: India v West Indies at Kolkata, Nov 14-17, 2011
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: India v West Indies at Mumbai, Nov 22-26, 2011
Report | Scorecard

1st ODI: India v West Indies at Cuttack, Nov 29, 2011
Report | Scorecard

2nd ODI: India v West Indies at Visakhapatnam, Dec 2, 2011
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3rd ODI: India v West Indies at Ahmedabad, Dec 5, 2011
Report | Scorecard

4th ODI: India v West Indies at Indore, Dec 8, 2011
Report | Scorecard

5th ODI: India v West Indies at Chennai, Dec 11, 2011
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co.