Ramnaresh Sarwan (L) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul © Getty Images
Ramnaresh Sarwan (L) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

It was enthralling to watch West Indies perform until a few years ago. The likes of Brian Lara, Carl Hooper and Jimmy Adams were thorns in the opposition flesh with their consistency, while the bowling attack, powered by Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, caused immense discomfiture to the batsmen. Although West Indies were on a downward spiral since a decade, they were a force to reckon with. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan are the only batsman from that era in the current West Indian side who can torment any opposition, provided they get a little support from the other end. Unfortunately, the rest of their batting lacks perseverance and intent while the bowling, although effective on a few occasions, lacks the sting.

 

Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul form the core of West Indies’ batting. Sarwan was the highest run getter for West Indies in the recently-concluded One-Day International (ODI) series against India. He scored 216 runs in five matches with an average of 54.00. However, he failed to carry his form into the first Test, scoring only three runs in his two innings. There wasn’t much resistance from any of the other batsmen, and this led to a middle-order collapse in both the innings which eventually cost West Indies the match. Chanderpaul managed to get starts, but couldn’t capitalize on them. On most occasions, West Indies’ batting goes up in smoke when these two fail to score.

 

Perhaps the West Indian batsmen lack an insatiable hunger for runs. Recently, Rahul Dravid, Kumara Sangakkara, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell batted exceptionally well for their respective teams and their knocks changed the course of the match. Dravid’s century helped India beat West Indies, while Sangakkara’s ton saved the match for Sri Lanka against England under difficult circumstances. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell‘s innings for England was all about perseverance and hard work. Except Sarwan and Chanderpaul, none of the other West Indian batsmen display qualities of persistence like the above-mentioned players. Adrian Barath looks promising, although he often tends to play erratic shots while Lendl Simmons is still inconsistent.

 

The West Indian batsmen need to take their cue from Dravid’s innings at Kingston. He toiled, but made sure he survived the tough phase and got going when he sensed an opportunity. His innings was all about patience and concentration. Since the advent of T20, batsmen insist on scoring quickly and are unwilling to spend time at the crease for longer durations. As a result, a number of teams in the recent past have managed low scores even on flat, placid tracks. Dravid has yet again proved that hard work and sensible batting can make a big difference. If the West Indian batsmen are willing to work a little harder and spend time more time in the middle, the Indians are in for a contest.

 

Here is a good chance for West Indies to level the series going into the second Test. India’s record at the Kensington Oval has been poor. However, the momentum is with India. West Indies’ bowling attack is decent and has never been a major issue in this series. Although they couldn’t bowl out India‘s tail as quickly as they would have liked in the first innings of the first Test, their batting remains a primary concern. The Kensington Oval pitch is known to offer a bit for the bowlers while still giving settled batsmen an opportunity to score. The top order of the West Indies alongside Sarwan and Chanderpaul will be looking to find form and create an impression in this Test.

 

With the axing of Brendan Nash from the side for the second Test, additional responsibility lies with Sarwan and Chanderpaul. Barath looked in good touch with the bat in the first Test and he will be hoping to better his performance in the remainder of this series. It will be a big plus for the West Indies if he gets going. Simmons, who had a good outing in the recently-concluded one-day series, can help strengthen the batting line-up if he delivers consistently. The West Indian players will, however, be ruing the absence of Chris Gayle.

 

If West Indies are to win the remaining two Tests against India, a lot will depend on their batting. They are yet to click collectively as a batting unit. Most of the batsmen have managed to get starts, but none of them have capitalized on it to go on and make a big score. Even if the remaining batsmen can support Chanderpaul and Sarwan by not throwing their wicket away at the other end, it will make a huge difference to the team’s performance.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)