Tuesday, May 07, 2002
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After winning a Test in the Caribbean after a gap of 26 years, one expected the Indians to be raring to go. Instead, they fell flat in Barbados.
The Indian capitulation in the third Test was appalling. The Kensington Oval pitch may have assisted the pacemen in the early stages, but that hardly explains the Indian collapse on the first day.
All that was required from our batsmen was grit and determination to survive the early phase, but they hardly appeared in a mood to battle it out. India lost the match on day one.
The West Indian pace attack of Mervyn Dillon & Co. was just about okay, and with a little bit of application, the Indians could so easily have registered a competitive first innings score.
If this mediocre bunch of pacemen can do this to Indian batting, one shudders to think how our present batsmen would have fared against Malcolm Marshall & Co. They would have been ripped apart mercilessly.
In contrast, the West Indians applied themselves. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Brian Lara were not too comfortable in the middle, however, they still stuck around to come up with valuable knocks.
Then, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper taught a lesson or two for the Indians with their approach and attitude. They refused to give in and gradually took the West Indies total to a point from where even a draw looked a remote possibility.
In the second knock, the Indian methods were baffling. Cameron Cuffy is a steady bowler, but that does not explain all those maiden overs in a row.
The Indians were only putting pressure on themselves. It almost seemed as if they had forgotten to keep the scoreboard moving. Even in a scenario, where a draw is the only honourable option, the side has to blend attack with defence.
Wasim Jaffer did that early on and the West Indian attack did look rattled when the opener played those lovely off-side strokes off the back-foot. That was the way to go about things, not tame defence.
The second innings effort of Jaffer was one of the few plus points for India from the Test. On the other side, some of the Indians appeared to be playing for their places and their averages rather than for the team's cause.
Unless the Indians play as a unit rather than a bunch of individuals, they are bound to struggle in the coming Tests as well. Captain Sourav Ganguly made runs in both innings, but he has to lead decisively.
One consolation for India is that the West Indies too is a highly unpredictable and brittle side, that can fall apart any moment. Like India, it has a long tail, with the wicketkeepers hardly contributing.
This is probably India's best chance of winning a series abroad. One hopes they do not blow it this time. They can still get their act together.
By K. SRIKKANTH
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