So fickle is the weather on this island of Dominica that there is a huge possibility of the third-man and fine-leg fielders getting drenched in rain. At the same time one may also see long-off and long-on standing under an unforgiving sun.
Wherever you are in Dominica, you’re either facing the mountains or the ocean. There’s little else to this place where rain is part of nature’s three main forces here.
Naturally then, cricket isn’t the most popular sporting delight in this island. The game has developed here, along with the newly constructed Windsor Park, as part of the Caribbean Community initiative. But Dominica, hosting its first Test match ever, has a long way to go.
It can rain while it’s extremely sunny, rain where there are absolutely no clouds hovering over you, rain when you’re least expecting it. There is nothing called weather forecast here and it’s safe to let it be that way. Ask the Indian team which is staying in one of the most luxurious rain forest resorts here on the island – where every guest apart from them is here to enjoy the rain. India and West Indies are here to play cricket.
It’ll be a huge surprise if the five-days of the third Test at Windsor Park aren’t marred and interrupted by rain when play begins on Wednesday. In how much rain could they still continue playing without a break will be the question here.
When it is not raining though, the factor likely to affect cricket the most will be the strong winds that blow from the southeast coast of the islands, cutting across the north. Batsmen will not find it easy to handle the pace and swing here if bowlers bowl with control. No wonder then, Rahul Dravid – India’s No. 3 batsman – calls the pitches on the current Caribbean tour one of the toughest he’s come across ever.
“It’s not easy for the young batsmen to come and face the new ball on these tracks,” says Dravid, pointing out to the conditions and talking about his experience of cricket in the Caribbean in general.
“I have played four tours here and this (time) I’ve played on some of the toughest tracks. The boys will learn a lot from this experience and it will hold them in good stead,” he says.
Dravid has been telling the likes of Virat Kohli, M Vijay and Suresh Raina – ever since the team has landed here – that they might not get to play on these kind of tracks very often once this tour gets over. Make the most of it while you learn, is the senior batsman’s advice.
The West Indies bowling in this series so far has been extremely testing, especially the pace. They’ve made the Indian batsman wince at the prospect of facing the new ball and have steadfastly maintained that short-pitched bowling is the correct way to cause any disorder in the Indian camp.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy sees no reason why that line of thinking should change. “The pitch at Windsor Park is very similar to the one that was at Kensington Oval. It’ll be hard and full of bounce. We will continue to use pace as the weapon against India,” he says.
Dravid knows India – looking for a series victory here – will have to gear up for another speed show.
“The tracks have been slightly tilted towards bowlers,” says Dravid, but adds that “it is good” for Test cricket. “The West Indies’ bowling has been good and from that perspective, we have been challenged in this series,” he says, terming the overall contest as good.
“People might say our batting hasn’t really fired but we have not done too badly. The tracks have pace and bounce and we handled it all well. If not for the rain in Barbados – where close to 120 overs were lost – we’d have had two results,” he says.
The batting has certainly clicked, but only enough to keep the West Indies at bay. India cannot afford to ignore here that any other formidable Test team, with a reasonably stronger batting line-up, would’ve given them a run for their money already here.
India’s also got to consider that there have been top-order blues and with the exception of Dravid, Laxman and Raina, none of the other batsmen have managed to survive here. M Vijay has struggled badly against short-bowling, Abhinav Mukund and Virat Kohli are still new to the Test format while captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has lacked the technical know-how.
How well India perform with the bat, how fast they score in case of rain interruptions and what kind of a strategy they end up devising to tackle the new ball — which again is about handling the short ball — that will make all the difference to this Test match and their prospects.
That is of course, if weather permits.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt.), Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay, Parthiv Patel, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (Capt.), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons.