By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The West Indies, a team that boasts of rich legacy, have found themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum in recent years. There was a time when the Caribbean Kings walked the earth with an air of dominance – a sight that intimidated teams from around the globe. However, those days seem to be a long lost memory as the recent generations of West Indies cricketers have failed to live up to the mark set by their great predecessors.
As the West Indies lost their sheen over the years, the hype and the excitement surrounding them died. It has reached a point where some people term their forthcoming tour of India as a “warm-up” series for the home team before they zip off to Australia.
West Indies may not be at their strongest, but have the capability of pulling off a surprise or two. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men should be vary off Darren Sammy’s unit. They may not pose the kind of challenge that South Africa or Australia would, but they are a very unpredictable side. In one game they can be absolutely ordinary and struggle to put the runs on the board or even pick up wickets, but in the next game they are capable of showing the vintage Caribbean flair, with their bowlers looking menacing on the most placid of surfaces.
This unpredictable and inconsistent nature has hurt West Indies cricket as they haven’t sustained their good runs of form. It is best illustrated by their recent One-Day International (ODI) series against Bangladesh. West Indies blazed past the home side in the first two games but were bowled out for a meager 61 in the final encounter.
There have been quite a few off-field issues which have hurt Caribbean cricket in the recent past - the most devastating being the Chris Gayle saga. The drama surrounding the situation has deprived West Indies of one of the most destructive opening batsman in World Cricket. Should Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) reach a settlement before the commencement of the Indian tour, it would be a huge addition to Sammy’s army.
In the absence of Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels would have to guide the batting. Chanderpaul has been their key for years as he has stood tall against all adversities. He may no longer be a part of their one-day set-up, but he still is a crucial cog in their Test machinery. It is a well-known fact that Chanderpaul fancies the Indian bowling and has a history of amassing a mountain of runs against them. The hundred he scored in the last of India’s tour earlier this year showed that he had the fire and the grit to serve West Indies in the classical format.
Samuels too has done well against the Indian bowling in the past and would be eager to add more to his tally on this trip. To accompany Chanderpaul and Samuels, they have a new face in Kirk Edwards who smashed a hundred on debut against India in July. In their ongoing Test match against Bangladesh, he recorded his second Test ton. These knocks will give him confidence when he will face India in the upcoming Test series. The young Darren Bravo would also want to prove his credentials in the subcontinent.
The attack boasts of some dangerous pacemen. Fidel Edwards can be a handful with his slingy action and brisk pace. Kemar Roach’s pace can rattle the best in the business. But there is one man who has always enjoyed bowling to Indian batsmen and that is Ravi Rampaul. The Trinidadian has matured into a thinking bowler as he bowls in the right channels at a good pace and gets it to move. On his day he can be a very menacing customer and pose some serious questions at the batsman.
The spinning duties would be carried by Devendra Bishoo, the ICC Emerging Player of the Year 2011. Bishoo has good variations to his armory as he uses length to deceive the batsman. He gives the ball good air and can purchase good turn off the surface. He would be a huge factor when they land in India early next month.
In many ways, the captain Sammy reflects the unpredictability and inconsistency of West Indies cricket. His record in Test cricket is decent. The only problem is the lack of consistency, something very symptomatic of the team he leads.
India needs to cover all their aces and ensure that they do not commit some of the errors they made during their tour of the West Indies earlier this year. There were occasions when India had the West Indies on the mat, but allowed them back into the game. The result of the Test series would have been a lot different had India pounced on those opportunities and sealed the deal. A 1-0 series victory reflects lost chances more than a competitive win in the first Test.
(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.")