Cheer up, West Indies have been beaten again
All together now: "We've beaten West Indies!" @AFP

November 2011, West Indies are in India for three Tests. India s last series was a 0-4 loss in England. They beat West Indies 2-0. Spirits are higher than they were in the summer, but not buoyant as the team heads to Australia to play four Tests. Six weeks later, India are blanked 0-4.

November 2013, West Indies are in India for two Tests. Since losing 0-4 in Australia, India have only played Test cricket at home, beating New Zealand 2-0, losing to England 1-2 and whitewashing Australia 4-0. Spirits are high, after that drubbing of a frankly very poor side coping with its own off-field issues, but there is also a sense of loss because these two Tests against Darren Sammy s perennial underachieves are the last time Sachin Tendulkar will play for India.

As it turns out, Sammy s team are soundly thrashed in both Tests. The entire series lasts less than 17 sessions – that s just over five days of cricket combined. A month later, India lose 0-1 in South Africa. A little over a month later, 0-1 in New Zealand.

October 2014, West Indies are in India for three Tests. Since losing another overseas Test series in Wellington in February, Dhoni s team is thrashed 3-1 in England after taking a 1-0 lead with a stirring victory at Lord s. However, in a dramatic turn of events the BCCI announces that West Indies have called off the tour as the impasse between the WICB and the players hits rock bottom.

October 2018, West Indies are in India for two Tests. India s last two Tests series have been defeats in South Africa (0-1) and England (1-4). The No 1 Test title rests heavy on Virat Kohli s team. Former players and television pundits have been critical of Kohli s captaincy and selection, and leading figures in the Test setup have had their roles questioned. India s batting overseas has

There are murmurs about two senior Indian players being at loggerheads. Karun Nair s bench-warming in England and exclusion from the Test squad to face West Indies has hit a fever pitch. A tour of Australia starts December 6.

Prithvi Shaw, aged 18, was named Man of the Series.
Prithvi Shaw, aged 18, was named Man of the Series. (IANS)

But ho-hum, India beat West Indies inside three days at Rajkot and Hyderabad for their tenth consecutive home Test series victory. Kohli scored his 24th Test century, Ravindra Jadeja got his first, the 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw made a century on debut and then 70 and 33 not out in the second Test to be named Man of the Series. Rishabh Pant breezed his way a pair of nineties. Even Ajinkya Rahane got runs.

The spinners all took wickets and Umesh Yadav – the perennial bench-warmer overseas – got ten in the second Test. That made him just the third Indian fast bowler to take ten wickets in a home Test. Oh and remember, India were a bowler down after the debutant Shardul Thakur hobbled off the field in his second over on day one.

But yeah, cheer up, West India are in India again and have been beaten in a Test series that did not last six days.

Say what you want, but this was a pretty farcical Test series. India gained little from it, barring the fact that they can say with certainty that Shaw is the real deal, never mind that he faced better bowling in scoring some of his seven prior first-class centuries. A debut century at the age of 18 is something special, and Shaw s career graph has shown he s made of an extra layer of skin. He will go to Australia, and chances are he will succeed because Australia has proven an easier country to bat in over the past decade than it has before. Understandably, one can express concern at an 18-year-old, just two Tests old, being exposed to Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. But Shaw has not looked daunted by any of the challenges he s faced on the pitch so far.

Umesh, as well as he bowled in Hyderabad, will likely warm the bench come Brisbane. He probably knows that too. When Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah return, Umesh will fall back to fifth in the pecking order behind Mohammed Shami. But well bowled, Umesh, and thanks for staying fit and enthusiastic.

Umesh Yadav claimed 10 wickets in Hyderabad as the only pace bowler available
Umesh Yadav claimed 10 wickets in Hyderabad as the only pace bowler available. AFP

Let s not be too harsh on Thakur, who found himself in the Test squad just days after returning from the UAE with a groin injury and then was given a debut, only to exit it after ten balls. Someone from the Indian team management and more importantly the National Cricket Academy really needs to explain what is going on.

If India actually erred somewhere in this overall meaningless series, it was in playing KL Rahul in both Tests. A third-ball duck at Rajkot. In Hyderabad, 4 off 25 balls in the first innings while Shaw blazed his way to to fifty and then 33 not out in the second. Is he insecure of his place? Is he just stuck in a rut? Will anyone tell us?

Rahul earned plenty of praise for the 149 he scored in the dead rubber Oval Test from the cricket pundits commentating on the India vs England Test series. It was a catchy innings, yes, but it came on the flattest pitch of the series and when India had lost the series 1-3. If you set aside that hundred, Rahul s Test batting average in 2018 sits at 12.85. Could India not have given Mayank Agarwal a chance, given that he looks to be the third opener for Australia?

But hey, cheer up, West Indies are in India again and there s a full limited-overs series to play. Hopefully we get more answers than questions about India’s middle-order problems ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup.