By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Mahendra Singh Dhoni described India’s win in the first Test against West Indies at Delhi as “not completely satisfying.” The tourists gave the Indians a scare by bowling them out for 209 in the first innings and taking a lead of 95. In the second essay, the Indians had to claw their way back into the game which required a huge team effort.
It is good to hear the Indian captain speak in such tones because it indicates the team’s intent to improve. West Indies can be dangerous as they have quite a few talented players, but they aren’t the strongest team going around. India were expected to dominate them on home conditions but, instead, were given a run for their money by Darren Sammy’s men.
However, one must understand that the win may not have been very satisfying, but there were positives that emerged. These are signs of the players getting into top groove which would help them as they move into the second and the third Tests. The only way Dhoni would be happy with the performances of his men is when they continue their form into the next Test and put in a dominating show. Whatever signs of vulnerability they showed need attention and ensure it doesn’t surface again.
Dhoni specifically pointed out the collapse in the first innings where the Indian batting continued to show the fragility it so often displayed during the Test series in England. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag gave a brilliant start, but wickets fell in a heap thereafter. It was only Rahul Dravid who held firm and limited the West Indian advantage.
In comparison, the batting showed good resolve during the run-chase. The pitch wasn’t the easiest, but the openers gave a fantastic start and the experienced middle-order handled the tricky phases with expertise. They showed solidity which would hold them in good stead in the matches ahead. They need to build on the good work done in the second innings and start getting back to their best. Collapses need to be avoided as they need to build the partnerships to put the big scores on the board.
The major factor for concern would be Yuvraj Singh. Prior to the Delhi Test, one would have felt that Virat Kohli may have had better chance of getting into the playing eleven based on his current form. The team management opted for experience and the southpaw showed glimpses of his destructive ability. In the first innings when India were in a precarious position, he started a calculated counter attack which looked very threatening. He looked positive with his footwork as he didn’t hang around against Devendra Bishoo.
However, Sammy got the better of Yuvraj in both his outings. In the first, he casually lofted Sammy to the cover fielder which ended his promising stay. During the run-chase, he had the opportunity to stay there till the end and mark an unbeaten score against his name. As the commentators mentioned, it is always good to end a run chase with an asterix marked against your score as it gives you the confidence going into the next game. The way he lost his wicket with just one run required for victory doesn’t speak well of a player of his calibre. The team management might just contemplate the Kohli option for the second Test.
Yuvraj should know that Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are waiting in the wings for a chance to impress in the whites. His experience may have got him the No 6 slot for the first Test, but only performances will help him retain his place. If he is picked for the Kolkata Test, he needs to make it count as this could be his last opportunity to impress the selectors before India’s tour of Australia. It could be a do-or-die Test as Kohli and Rahane are in the squad rearing to go and a certain Cheteshwar Pujara is also vying for a seat on the flight to Australia.
The Indian bowling was fantastic as the two spinners decimated the West Indies batting. It was only Shivnarine Chanderpaul who held firm in both innings to frustrate the bowlers otherwise they had the upper hand in the proceeding. The spinners may have stolen the limelight, but Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma bowled their hearts out on the unhelpful surface. The wickets column doesn’t reflect their effort and they would be looking for better returns in the series.
Dhoni would have liked to limit West Indies to a smaller score in the second innings but Chanderpaul was gritty and Sammy added crucial runs. The last three wickets added nearly a 100 runs and that was the only complaint the Indian captain would have had against the bowling.
The Indian bowlers have often shown the tendency to strike early and make inroads into the top order. But, there have been quite a few occasions where they have struggled to wipe out the tail. Luckily for them, it wasn’t a big factor during the first Test and the Indian team management would mark it as an area for improvement.
The team effort put in by all the men ensured India crossed the line at the Feroz Shah Kotla but they clearly need to cover a few aces before the next Test at Kolkata.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)