Ishant Sharma”¦ Man of the series with 22 wickets at an average of 16.9 © AFP
Ishant Sharma”¦ Man of the series with 22 wickets at an average of 16.9 © AFP

 

By CricketCountry Staff

 

India won the series 1-0, but will be disappointed not to have whitewashed West Indies. Indeed, were it not for inclement weather in the last two Tests, India would certainly have won 3-0.

 

Ishant Sharma was deserved Man of the Series, taking 22 wickets at an average of 16.9. George Harrison’s doppelganger was hostile and accurate on some flat wickets, and he led India’s attack admirably. Crucially, he was consistent throughout the series, and always looked like taking wickets.

 

India’s back-up bowling of Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishraeach ended with respectable figures, but barring Mishra, they also looked utterly feeble at times. Indian heads dropped far too quickly when the tide turned against them, perhaps borne out of complacency. However, in order to become the world’s No. 1 Test side, Dhoni needs to ensure a higher overall level of intensity.

 

Harbhajan may have picked up 11 wickets @ 25.4, but his lack of intensity and zip was symptomatic of India’s lethargy in the field. It remains unsure whether he is a strike bowler, or just a holding bowler with a fancy action. West Indies’ lower order batsmen were no match for Harbhajan, but in the Test arena, he is living on past reputation.

 

Amit Mishra is a much better bet against England, especially given that he can spin it no matter how flat the track, and the host’s perceived weakness against leg-spin.

 

India’s batting was surprisingly brittle throughout the series, with none of the youngsters staking a firm claim for a Test spot. Abhinav Mukund’s relative failures looked positively world-class in comparison to Murali Vijay (72 @ 12.0), MS Dhoni (97 @ 19.4) and Virat Kohli (76 @ 15.2). Suresh Raina hit three fifties in six innings, but he will be brutalized if he his played in the Test matches in England.

 

India hit ten fifties in the series, but just the one century, by the inimitable Rahul Dravid.

 

The end to the series was totally unsatisfactory. There are manifold issues with the way in which Dhoni decided to shake hands with India requiring 86 off 90 balls, with seven wickets in hand. Dhoni mentioned that there was “risk” involved with continuing their innings, when any ‘risk’ would have been absolutely minimal. With Dravid still at the crease, it would have been perfectly logical and sensible to promote Harbhajan, Kohli, Praveen or Dhoni himself. With Bishoo bowling an exclusively leg-stump line, Darren Sammy offering defensive fields, and Fidel Edwards suffering from an ankle niggle, any chances of India imploding were minimal.

 

In the event that India went on to lose two quick wickets, Sammy would have still bitten Dhoni’s arm off for a draw. As it was, Dhoni’s offer of a draw clearly came as a pleasant surprise to the West Indies.

 

The hallmark of the best Test sides – Australia under Steve Waugh, West Indies in the 1980s – is sheer ruthlessness, choking the opposition into submission, and kicking dirt in their faces. The final session of the third Test was an excellent opportunity to show a bloody-minded winning nature, a warning shot to Test nations around the world.

 

When you have a boxer on the ropes, you go for the killer blow, you smash the living daylights out of him. You certainly don’t say: “Oh, mate, look…I didn’t mean to hurt you, we can play nice-nice if you want?”

 

This farce served to recall the pre-Sourav Ganguly notion that India are soft touches. For the sheer absurdity of Dhoni’s decision to be appreciated, it must be reiterated that the risk involved in merely even ‘having a go’ was absolutely minimal – when Raina was third man out, bookies were only too happy to offer 150/1 about a West Indies win.

 

It was cowardly from Dhoni, and showed that his tactical awareness still leaves a lot to be desired. As an aside, it is hard to reconcile this ‘First, Do Not Lose’ attitude from Dhoni with his perceived aura of ‘fearlessness’.

 

This was a symbolic hammer-blow for Test cricket. Not that the players should have much obligation to the fans – in which case Shivnarine Chanderpaul would have have retired long ago – but there was outrage from fans watching in India in the wee hours, and the fans inside the stadium could not have been too chuffed at being robbed of a proper denouement to an otherwise brilliant Test. Sadly, that’s what many fans will remember – our memories are short, and five days of tooth-and-nail battle will be forgotten, replaced by our collective bitterness at the most disappointing of finishes.

 

The non-climax to this Test was a per-coital “actually I’m not in the mood, but we can cuddle if you want.” It always seeds deep-rooted resentment.

 

After all, what does it say for Test cricket when captains are actually allowed to just ‘call off’ a tight match?

 

For their part, the West Indies deserve enormous credit. A 1-0 series loss is perhaps on the flattering side, but it has been truly encouraging to see the improvement in the West Indies’ application and fortitude – especially considering the absences of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo.

 

Darren Sammy can be the West Indies’ Dhoni. He has justified his place in the starting line-up, having shown supreme discipline with the ball. Sport at any level is about making the most of your resources, and Sammy has led his team by example. He is animated on the field, and can always be seen to be trying his best, whether it’s with the ball, or diving around in the field. Cast your mind back to other stony-faced West Indian captains over the past 15 years, and Sammy is a true breath of fresh air – his humble joie de vivre and constant smiles are contagious.

 

Impressively, Sammy seems to have brushed aside the general malaise surrounding the West Indies Cricket Board, West Indies Players’ Association, and Chris Gayle’s non-availability, and just focused on the task at hand. His batting leaves a lot to be desired, but he is the future of Caribbean cricket. After Test and ODI series against both Pakistan and India, his side’s improvement in discipline should not be understated. It will take a while for West Indies to start winning Tests against the top sides once again, but I expect them to start causing upsets in the shorter forms, over the next 12 months.

 

Sammy has understandably taken a while to grow into the unfamiliar role of captain, but he is doing a bloody good job of it.

 

West Indies’ bowling was excellent throughout the series – as a unit, it was probably better than India’s. Fidel Edwards and Darren Sammy both bowled heroically at times, and given the former’s struggles with injury, this was no mean feat. Edwards showed that he is a world-class bowler, with 19 wickets @ 20.0. Ravi Rampaul was a surprising success, picking up 10 @ 24.9 – though he should be sending a Christmas card to Murali Vijay, who accounted for half of those wickets.

 

Sammy played his role perfectly, tying up an end, and bowling as accurately as his economy rate of 2.31 suggests. Devendra Bishoo came away with a respectable 12 @ 32.6, but he was unable to maintain pressure, and needs to improve his consistency. As a leg-spinner, he should be attacking the stumps, but he was largely bowling far too short and wide.

 

The team’s batting is a glaring weakness, but with experience, the likes of Adrian Barath and Darren ‘Not Lara’ Bravo could become world-class. There is still a gaping hole in the batting line-up left by the indifferent form of Carlton Baugh and Sammy himself, along with senior batsmen Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Brendan Nash struggling badly.

 

The future is bright for West Indies under Sammy. Any success he experiences will be well-deserved, and we have tentatively penciled in Sammy as captain for AC’s IPL franchise for next year, The Goa Gubbers.

(This article is reproduced with permission from AlternativeCricket.com. AlternativeCricket is currently developing a scholarship for young Afghan cricketers. You can follow them on Facebook (facebook.com/alternativecricket) and Twitter (twitter.com/altcricket)