West Indies need to address batting after collapse against India leaves them chasing 1st Test

Marlon Samuels got to his half-century and looked set to add more runs. Then within a matter of few deliveries, West Indies had lost their set batsmen © IANS

West Indies collapsed from a solid position against India on Day One of the first Test at Kolkata. This has left India with the higher hand in the Test and leaves West Indies with a tall mountain to climb. The ability is there for all to see, but consistency is what is lacking. Shrikant Shankar has more.
After West Indies won the toss and elected to bat first at the Eden Gardens in the first Test against India, many would have expected them to at least last till the day and go on to post a good total. They seemed to get off to a good start with Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell. The duo added 34 runs for the opening wicket before Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed Gayle. Powell soon fell to debutant Mohammed Shami. After that came a solid partnership between Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels. The 91-run stand was a mixture of old-fashioned Test resilience and new-age enterprising batsmanship.

Bravo was happy to play his way in, while Samuels forced the issue. Some of the strokes played by Samuels could only be done so by a player from the Caribbean. The flicks and drives were a joy to watch. Samuels got to his half-century and looked set to add more runs. Then within a matter of six balls, West Indies had lost both their set batsmen. First Samuels was bowled by Shami and then the confident-looking Bravo was run-out needlessly.

From the score being at 138 for two, West Indies had lost two wickets without adding any run. Then five runs later, Denesh Ramdin had also perished and West Indies had lost half their side for just 143. Suddenly all their stroke players and flair players were back in the pavilion. Looking at the how it was all happening, it seemed like it was just a matter of time before they would get bowled out. Although it was not as plain sailing for India, West Indies were eventually bowled out for 234.

Even their evergreen Shivnarine Chanderpaul could only manage 36. Shami was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets. India then began their innings and both openers — Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay — remained unbeaten to end the day at 37 for no loss, with West Indies having a lead of 197 runs. That margin may look good on paper, but West Indies would know themselves that if the Indian batsmen get their eye in and bat for the whole of Day Two, they would be trailing India.

It is a case of what if for the West Indies. It is one thing to be blown away in an innings and it is another to collapse. Remember, it was West Indies who decided to bat first and that means they were confident of putting up a score of at least 350 to 400. Let’s face it, India do not have a bowling line-up that will instill fear in the eyes of the batsmen. They have good bowlers, who can be good on a given day. The spinners can be very good in Indian conditions. But West Indies’ abject batting display as a whole definitely makes the Indian bowlers look better.

Some of their batsmen threw away their wickets as well. Bravo was at fault for his own run-out and captain Darren Sammy played a ridiculous shot to get out. He tried clearing long-off with a lofted shot, especially with a fielder placed at the very same spot. End result was that he mis-timed his shot and was caught by the fielder at long-off. Sammy has been involved in international cricket long enough to know that such shots are not the best response in a difficult situation.

Five amongst the top seven in the West Indies line-up average above 30 in Test cricket. Two average in the 30s, two in the 40s and one above 50. So, how did a team that has decent averages not post better scores. The issue is inconsistency and failure of the batsmen succeeding as a team. The West Indies may still bowl India out cheaply and get a sizeable lead going into the second innings. But their collapse must be a worry for them as they have already gifted the momentum to India. If they do not address the issues they have in batting quickly, they might not scale the heights of Test cricket again.

(Shrikant Shankar previously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)