There was an interesting picture taken during West Indies' training session on Sunday afternoon that captured the divide between the glory of the past and the uncertainty of the current team. The focus was Courtney Walsh, the former West Indies fast bowler and legend, dressed casually in a grey T-shirt and jeans; he stood with Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach. His left palm was turned upwards as if asking a casual question but his long fingers pointed directly at Edwards as if to say "are you ready to step up the plate?"
Edwards, with 50 Tests and 152 Test wickets, is leader of the Caribbean pace pack which includes Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Sammy. Yet, Edwards has just three wickets so far in the two Tests he has played while Rampaul and Roach, who have played one match each, have only a couple of victims each to their credit. Sammy, much slower in pace, has been the best seam bowler for the visitors with seven wickets.
Edwards and co. could cite the slowness of the surface in Delhi and its flatness in Kolkata. Now they're at the Wankhede, where the last five matches have produced results; the pitch has always offered the fast men good bounce and is likely to be the most supportive for fast bowlers among the three venues in this series. Keeping that in mind, Sammy hinted that that West Indies may field all their three main fast bowlers- a quartet with him included. It lacks the teeth of the great Caribbean quartets but it is a credible option for West Indies in their efforts to avoid a 3-0 whitewash, their first in six years.
"That's something we are looking at," Sammy said when asked about the likelihood of fielding a seam attack. "Throughout the Test series, the pacers have been the ones getting the wickets for us. We will look at that and hopefully we could come up with the right XI to at least salvage a draw or a win here."
Walsh, who had 43 wickets in seven Tests in India, at an average of 18.55 including three five-fors, gave his heirs some tips to succeed;. Fast bowling is akin to marathon running, he told them; you can't sprint all the time. To exercise control over the batsman you need to remain patient. You can't just be aggressive all the time especially on unresponsive tracks.
"Courtney always has some advice and he is always willing to share his experiences with the team," Sammy said. "Yesterday I think while chatting he said to the bowlers that we have got to be more patient. He told Fidel to take the lead that sometimes it's not about getting a wicket every ball and that he has to be patient."
Sammy said Edwards was happy to chat with a stalwart like Walsh. "Fidel agreed, and, so far yesterday and today he's been focusing on being patient in the nets and looking to lead the attack," Sammy said. "It's always good when you have former players passing on their knowledge and that's something we always welcome."
According to Sammy, the bounce on the practice pitches was encouraging, something he hopes from the actual match pitch. "There's been something in it for the fast bowlers and the batsmen seem to be playing their shots."
Regardless of the state of the pitch, Sammy also had a word of advice for his bowlers. "If our bowlers decide to bowl short, bowl bouncers, they could get something out of the wicket. We saw in the Caribbean when we were aggressive at the Indian batsmen, although Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir were not present, when we bowled short we created some opportunities. Let's hope it's a good wicket where there is something in it for the bowlers and batsmen."
Even if it is not to their expectations they have the Walsh formula to fall back on.