Indian team were skittled out for 81 runs by the West Indies during the second Test at Barbados in 2002 © AFP
Indian team were skittled out for 81 runs by the West Indies during the second Test at Barbados in 2002 © AFP

 

By Navneet Mundhra

 

The mere mention of Kensington Oval, Barbados sends shivers down the spine of Indian fans. India have an awful record on this ground. They have been routed by West Indies seven times out of eight Tests and just managed to eke out a solitary draw.

 

The primary reason behind such an abysmal record is the pacy pitch of Barbados and the notoriety of the Indian batsmen to bat on such wickets. And West Indies have always had fearsome pacemen to capitalize on it.

 

West Indies have an outstanding record on this ground. They have remained unbeaten on this ground since 1935-94 and held the record for the most consecutive victories by any side on a particular ground. They notched up 12 successive wins from 1978 to 1994. This was the time when West Indies team boasted a battery hostile pacemen capable of wrecking any opposition. The Barbados pitch was tailor-made for them

 

The last two Tests on this ground have been heart-breaking for Indian. On both occasions, India made a good start to the series only to see their hopes come crashing down at Barbados.

 

In 1997, India did fairly well in the first two Test matches of the series which petered out into draws. In the third Test at Barbados, going into the fourth day, India looked set to chase a paltry target of 120. But Ian Bishop and Franklyn Rose tore through the Indian batting line-up as India were all out for collapsed to 81 to leave West Indies winners by 38 runs. The next two Tests were marred by rain and West Indies won the series 1-0.

 

On the 2002 tour, Indian team seemed to measure up to the billing of favourites when they racked up a remarkable victory in the second Test at Port-of-Spain to go 1-0 up in the series – their first victory in West Indies in 26 years – and raising hopes of winning a series in West India after 31 years.

 

The third Test was scheduled at Bridgetown, Barbados and the spectre of Barbados came back to haunt Indian team. Shiv Sunder Das was cleaned up by the first ball of the match by Mervyn Dillon, who snaffled eight wickets in the match. That set the game up for West Indies. Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal for a duck was the final nail in the coffin. India capitulated for 102 runs in the first innings and West Indies galloped to victory by 10 wickets.

 

West Indies thumped India by 155 runs in the final Test at Sabina Park to lift the series.

 

India have won the first Test, but chinks in Indian batting were apparent when the inexperienced West Indies bowlers reduced India to 85 for six in the first innings on the first day of the Jamaica Test. The Indian line-up is missing many of their key players like Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan.

 

The Barbados pitch is known for affording disconcerting bounce and generous pace. It will be an uphill task for the inexperienced openers Vijay Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund to see off the new ball. They didn’t perform well in the first Test and it would be interesting to see how they confront the situation.

 

Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are present in the middle order and Suresh Raina showed promise in the first Test by scoring 82 runs to wriggle India out of strife along with Harbhajan Singh. But absence of Tendulkar was surely felt in the first Test and Indian batting look trifle vulnerable against the quick bowling.

 

Not having Zaheer Khan in the team would be the most worrying factor for India. He would have been devastating in these conditions bowling in tandem with Praveen Kumar, who showed his finesse in his debut Test.

 

India will like to keep the winning momentum going and would be eager to banish the ghost of Barbados which has hounded them for ages. But that won’t be easy. Barbados is probably the weak West Indies best chance to win a game and come level-pegging. A highly pulsating encounter is in store ahead.

 

(Navneet Mundhra is a dreamer who has no delusion of grandeur about himself. He is an eternal learner brimming with passion and compassion, a maverick who swears by perfection and integrity and an avid reader, devout philharmonic, die hard movie buff and a passionate writer)