India’s golden opportunity of retaining the apex spot in the ICC Test rankings has been shattered due to incessant rains and poor drainage at the Port-of-Spain. The wet outfield called off the Test and some intense cricket went for a toss. Though India claimed the four-match series with couple of wins yet there are few loopholes, which needs to be taken care of. Prior to the series, one could have crystal glazed and see India whitewashing the vulnerable hosts in their own den but it wasn’t to be as some magnificent resistance by Roston Chase in the second Test did not let India achieve desired dividends. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs West Indies, 4th Test match
Barring the second Test, West Indies didn’t pose a threat to the sturdy Indian side, the latter’s batting was dominant in every outing and they played with unmatched confidence. In the first two Tests, India posted a total of over 500 and batted just once, which speaks about their domination over the hosts. The third Test saw a top-order collapse but the lower middle-order did a commendable job to weather the early storm and bail India out of crisis. Bowling looked up to the mark on most of the occasions but the pacers were running out of options when there was not enough assistance from the surface.
Some other factors like the five-bowler strategy worked well for India but it would be interesting to see how it works out on surfaces, which are difficult for batting. West Indies batsmen hardly put any battle to test the Achilles heel of Indian bowlers apart from the second Test. Their batsmen lacked temperament and perished early on in the innings. The evolution of Ravichandran Ashwin as a reliable all-rounder was irresistible and his elevation at six was a masterstroke by the management. ALSO READ: Kohli: Getting to No. 1 was always a short-term incentive
They did make some tactical errors by axing Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara from the third Test but rectified it soon by roping them back for the ultimate battle. The investment in Rohit Sharma in the middle-order has been dicey while KL Rahul made his opportunities count. With plenty of Tests scheduled for India in the upcoming season, the series has certainly served as a platform for many to hone their skills and the management to find out the right combination for different conditions. Let us assess players on their basis of their performance:
‘Elegance personified’ – describe the graceful right-hander appropriately. He made it to the side riding on some consistent performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and domestic circuit. In fact, he was the only player to have made it to Zimbabwe as well as the West Indies tour. Initially, he was a reserved opener but an injury to Vijay paved way for him in the second Test. He grabbed the golden opportunity with both the hands and smashed a brilliant 158 to announce his presence; he continued his good run in the third Test and had a fifty to his name.
Rahul displayed some flawless batting and exquisite timing, he showed immense temperament and has proved his worth in gold. In fact, his prolific run made it difficult for a fully fit Vijay to make a comeback in the third Test. Rahul looks hungry for more and his success in this series has now made his existence unavoidable for the upcoming series.
A lot was expected from the brawny left-hander but his consistency went for a toss after an impactful 84 in the first Test. Dhawan was dismissed cheaply in second Test and in both the innings of the third one. Perhaps, his bare runs column cost him his place in the fourth Test. Dhawan kept getting good start but his conversion wasn’t good enough.
It was a decisive series for Pujara and the batsman who was once tipped to fill in the big shoes of Rahul Dravid seems to be losing his confidence with every outing. Pujara had a lot of hopes pinned to this series and this could have well been a career defining one for him. After a poor and dawdling start in the first Test, Pujara was just looking to have rediscovered his lost mojo when a direct hit from Roston Chase brought an end to his miserable innings. Infact, he was even axed from the third game. With Rahul making the most of his opportunities, it’s a warning bell for Pujara to step up and contribute.
Kohli set the benchmark with his maiden double ton in Test cricket at Antigua and the tone was set for the series. He marshalled his team well and shepherded them with example. Though he did not enjoy a prolific run in the third Test but his captaincy was exceptional after making some tactical errors in the second Test. He has been in an insane form in the recent times and has replicated similar magic against the red ball. He finished the series as the highest run-scorer, despite having a poor run in the third Test. With him at the reins, Indian cricket seems to be in safe hands. ALSO READ: Dhoni in Dominica 2011 to Kohli in St Lucia 2016: A circle comes full for IND in WI
Birds of a feather flock together, along with Rahul and Kohli, Rahane was also one of the pillars of strength for India in the tour. After a disheartening start in the first Test, Rahane stuck to his guns and came out fighting in the next encounter with a splendid century. He also played a match-winning innings in the third Test and helped India post a total, which would be enough to win the match. It could be easily said that Rahane is the best Test batsman India possess at the moment.
Rohit almost squandered another opportunity to leave a mark in whites after being dismissed for a mere 9 in the first innings of the third Test. But he played a resolute innings of 41 in the second innings to give another reprieve in the next game. His talent is incontestable but the runs column in whites is bare, he been unable to establish himself in Test cricket despite being in the international cricket for almost a decade. His knack of offering shot to every delivery has taken a heavy toll of him in test cricket. ALSO READ: India vs West Indies: No cricket? Rohit Sharma goes for paddleboarding
Ashwin looked shrewd; he continued to develop in stature as India’s reliable all-rounder with bowling being his forte. But, Ashwin made headlines with the bat after plundering couple of much-needed tons in the series. He became the first Indian cricketer and fourth overall to have scored two tons and have chipped two fifers in the same Test series. His adaptability was akin to a duck to water. He bailed the team out with a match-winning partnership with Wriddhiman Saha in the third Test. His bowling was further impressive with 17 scalps to his name and also being on the brink of becoming the joint-fastest bowler to have chipped 200 Test wickets. ALSO READ: Ashwin surpasses Tendulkar, Sehwag
A resolute innings by Saha was overdue and he delivered it at the perfect time. Throughout his career, he has been getting good starts but failed to capitalise on it. If truth be told, his highest Test score prior to this series was just 60. In first two Tests of the series, Saha once again got out after scoring a well-fought 40 but he bounced back emphatically in the third Test when his team needed him the most. He stitched a match-winning partnership of 213 runs with Ashwin to not only weather the early storm but also bring up his maiden Test ton. He showed nerves of steel and tackled the short pitched deliveries with precision. His services behind the stumps were exceptional and hardly made any error. He also scripted history in the first Test by accounting for seven dismissals, which is the joint-highest by a wicketkeeper in a Test.
Amit Mishra — 4.5/10 (Matches: 2, Wickets: 6, Ave: 38.66)
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mishra was unfortunate not to get enough wickets in his basket. He was a tad expensive but looked to toss the ball up. Mishra was dropped from the third test as Jadeja was drafted in to introduce some variation in the spin department.
Yadav has some serious pace but has been erratic. His directionless and inconsistency which has been one of the major reasons behind his unrewarding career. He had a rare opportunity to establish himself in the Test side and was on track after the first Test. But his ineffectiveness in the second Test, where he remained wicketless saw him being dropped from the third encounter.
Though Ishant did not do a bad job with the ball, but he not look compelling enough for someone who has played over 71 Tests. He is a veteran and is expected to do much better than what he has been doing. He got some wickets with the new ball but there were no sign of reverse swing when the leather turned old. Nevertheless, he has shown some signs of improvement in the recent times but needs to pull up big time. ALSO READ: India vs West Indies: India’s success story at Port-of-Spain
Mohammed Shami – 7/10 (Matches 4, wickets: 11, Ave: 25.81)
Shami made a comeback after nursing an injury and did a commendable job with the ball. He was quick and bowled a better length as compared to others. Shami got the new ball to move at a menacing pace and kept troubling the batsmen by hitting the corridor of uncertainty. His return to form was crucial from India’s point of view as he is one bowler who can conjure couple of wickets in quick successions.
Bhuvneshwar made a striking comeback into the Test side as he chipped in with a fifer in the first innings of the third Test. He got the ball to swing and was right on the money. With swing being his forte, he made the most of it by hitting the right areas and reaping fruits for his hard work.
Jadeja got a solitary game to feature in which he scalped three wickets in both the innings. He was not given another game as the team went ahead with four-bowler strategy as a result of which he was dropped from the fourth test.
Special mention: It won’t be fair enough to judge Murali Vijay as he got a solitary chance to bat and was injured before getting out, which cost him the next two games.
(Suraj Choudhariis a reporter with Criclife and CricketCountry. He is an avid follower of the game, and plays the sport at club level. He has a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, and tries to express it through paper and pen.)
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