In the last four years of their journey to conquer the Test world, India have won a Test in 2006 at Sabina Park, Kingston; in 2007 at Trent Bridge, England, in 2008 at Perth, Australia, in 2009 at Hamilton, New Zealand; in 2010 at Durban, South Africa.
And yet, when they arrive for a major cricket assignment overseas, the talk of Indian batsmen being suspect against quality bounce and effective fast bowling keeps coming to the fore.
Express pacer Fidel Edwards, who last played a Test in 2009 before being sidelined with a back injury, says India will have to face some ‘chin music’ at Sabina Park, where the action begins on Monday. He is very sure that the visitors are susceptible to quality pace and bounce.
This whole notion of India not being able to handle pace comes as a surprise. Especially when we’re talking about a team that has played Lee, Johnson, Clark and Tait in Perth; Steyn, Morkel, Tsotsobe and Kallis in Durban; Martin, Southee, O’Brien and Franklin in Hamilton. And all of this in the last three years. Therefore, Edwards can rest his case. Regardless of the doubts that the opposition may like to bear in mind, the fact remains that India have been there and done it well.
When you look at the Sabina Park wicket for the first Test from a distance, it appears less threatening than how Edwards feels it will behave. The pitch lacks any shine and grass and seems to have been smoked out. Both teams believe that there’ll be good bounce and carry. However, that in turn should worry the West Indies if Harbhajan Singh finds his rhythm.
After the renovation of most stadiums in the Caribbean, none of the tracks at most historic stadiums here retain the old flavour any more. The need to protect and facilitate exciting Twenty20 matches, the pressure to have bigger scores in the 50-over format – to attract television viewers – have simply ‘accommodated’ factors that were alien to conditions here years ago. It is not India’s fault, as a touring team, if host countries have failed to consolidate their cricketing strengths over a period of time.
Frankly, the talk of India not able to handle pace is now almost a ‘joke’. At least as long as they’re busy proving everybody wrong.
The focus in this Test, instead, is likely to be on how well can the West Indies live up to their own batting expectations. Only if they show the determination to hold on to their wickets and put runs on the board more frequently than they have in the recent years, will the hosts be able to make a match of this series.
India go into the Test without Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag – two batting stalwarts who’ve been unmatchable. The prolific Gautam Gambhir is also missing and so is the bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan. In the absence of these names, the tourists will depend on relatively newer faces to show them the way.
Captain MS Dhoni expects these circumstances to provide a competitive atmosphere in the Indian team ahead of important assignments later this year. “It will be a good competition for the batsman. This is an ideal opportunity for everybody and that’s how I want them to look at it,” he says.
Dhoni, of course, is wary of the West Indies pace attack. “They have good bowlers and the turn here (at Sabina) is likely to be lesser than the venues for the one-dayers,” he says. He sums up that India have to be wary, but not in the manner in which oppositions like to think. They have to be wary of the standards the team has set in the last few years.
India’s fitness worries were yet to be sorted out until Sunday night and therefore, chances are that the final eleven will be decided as late as possible. Dhoni will not rush any of his players into the game if even there’s a slightest doubt over fitness. Given the flurry of assignments coming up in the near future, the skipper believes fitness will remain the most important ingredient for success.
World No. 1 India take on 7th-ranked West Indies in the Test series from Monday. TOI presents a swot analysis of both teams
Strengths: The Indian batting line-up has pioneered the team’s surge to the top spot. With experienced campaigners such as Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman back in the fold, the West Indian bowling will surely be tested. Also, with regular skipper MS Dhoni coming back fresh from a break, the youngsters in the team will feel at home.
Weaknesses: Without Zaheer Khan, and Sreesanth, the pace attack looks way short on penetration. And there are doubts over Munaf’s fitness too. The onus will be on spinners Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra to get the wickets.
Opportunities: With the likes of Dravid, Sachin, Laxman and Zaheer nearing the end of their careers, the series will provide a serious platform for the youngsters to prove their mettle at this level. India will be hoping that they will grab the chance.
Threats: The young batsmen will have to contend with some disconcerting pace and bounce. If the untested opening duo fails, their job will be much more harder. Raina and Badri’s form too does not inspire confidence.
Strengths: The bowling attack has sheer pace at its disposal in Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards who will love to revel on bouncy tracks.
Weaknesses: An unstable and inexperienced team. And the batting looks fragile barring Sarwan and Chanderpaul.
Opportunities: The team has a chance to resurrect its dwindling fortunes and its sorry Test record over the last several years. It has a chance of doing so against an understrength Indian line-up.
Threats: The team has a history of disintegrating in a jiffy. Unless the new ball yields wickets, containing a solid batting line-up will be tough.