The 1st Test match between India and West Indies was known more for being Tendulkar’s 199th Test than it was for being the 1st Test match of an international Test series. In the end though, India and West Indies vindicated their Test status and rankings. India, as like they always do, strong at home, bat big first time around but with the eccentric outcome that out of 20 wickets to pick for the bowlers spread over 2 innings, 11 wickets were picked by the duo of Mohamed Shami and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Mohamed Shami was unstoppable this afternoon with his prowess to reverse the ball both ways and looked at a different class altogether.
From West Indies perspective, I thought, they admired the Indian backlash led by Ashwin and Rohit Sharma way too much that they lacked in spirit to win and at least, put up a fight right throughout the Test match and ended up embarrassing themselves by capitulating well inside three days. Unsurprisingly, India lead the series 1-0 going into Tendulkar’s 200 Test match at the Wankhede in five days time.
On a typical hazy winter morning in Kolkata, West Indies and Darren Sammy did well to win the toss and be organized in their mind to bat first and make the most of prevalent good batting conditions so to speak. Darren Sammy went in with 5 specialist batsmen, 5 specialist bowlers and Denesh Ramdin, being the wicket keeper. Now, as like of most of you, I was pretty baffled at what role Darren Sammy assigned to himself. He has always been a floater right throughout his career and actually done well to prolong his career thus far at the very least. Sheldon Cotterell and Veerasamy Permaul made their Test debuts for West Indies and at the end of the Test match, you got to believe, they would have questioned their own existence in that line-up for the way they gave an account of themselves.
Cotterell, who is said to have been a Policeman the last time India visited the Caribbean after winning the world cup in 2011 was rather inconsistent with his line and length and technically, looked more like a bowler from the Indian gully/backyard cricket than being a proper Test bowler. Permaul wasn’t far behind with his inept left arm orthodox spin bowling.
Chris Gayle, the blockbuster IPL batsman opened the innings with Kieran Powell and both of them exhibited contrasting styles as expected. Chris Gayle was trying to push out for the deliveries outside the off-stump in his own aggressive way and Powell was at his usual self, leaving balls outside the off-stump. Chris Gayle didn’t last long with his fishing the balls outside off-stump and soon edged a Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s out-swinger to Murali Vijay at second slip.
Mohamed Shami at the other end was working up some good pace and slowly started getting a feel of bowling in a Test match for India after receiving his Test cap from Sachin Tendulkar. Shami, for his own share of good bowling got a reward sooner. Kieran Powell looking to bring down a climbing Shami bouncer, ended up skying the ball in the air, only for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar to take a good catch running backwards to a ball dropping over his left shoulder.
At the fall of two wickets with 47 runs on the board, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo came together and started taking the attack to the Indian bowlers. Samuels was at his attacking best by playing well of the front and the back foot and Darren Bravo, tipped to be the next Brian Charles Lara was giving Samuels good company and building his own innings with some booming cover drives and lofted shots over mid-on and mid-off of Ashwin and Ojha and stretched the West Indian total to 107-2 at Lunch on day one. A job well done.
Post lunch on day 1, Shami was introduced into the attack very early and paid dividends likewise. West Indies were going along smoothly at 138-2 with Samuels and Bravo remaining stable and milking the Indian bowlers around but a in-dipping reverse swinger from Shami led to the downfall of Marlon Samuels and with it started West Indies’ hara-kiri. Darren Bravo called Chanderpaul for a needless run when he dabbed the ball to square leg and an unresponsive Chanderpaul left Bravo stranded halfway down the wicket and West Indies lost their 4th wicket in the form of Darren Bravo, 2nd in quick succession.
Denesh Ramdin, more known for his open letter pointing to the great Sir Vivian Richards after his Test century at Edgbaston last season, joined Chanderpaul in the middle and this partnership was possibly the last recognized batting pair for the West Indies. Yet again, a lethal in-swinger from Shami castled Ramdin and in the space of 5 runs, West Indies had lost 3 crucial wickets and India moved into ascendancy.
Sammy joined Chanderpaul in the middle and was caught in a catch-22 situation on whether to play his natural game of going for the big strokes or play a more subdued game and build a partnership with Chanderpaul, a tormentor every time he plays against India. Sammy took the easy way out of going for the big hits and his dismissal was beautifully plotted with a long-off in place and Sammy, going for an inside-out lofted drive over extra-cover to a tossed-up delivery from Ojha ended up dragging it down long-off’s throat.
West Indies now 6 down for a mere 172 and Chanderpaul started running out of batting partners. The over before tea, Dhoni threw the ball to the man of the moment, Sachin Tendulkar and as easy as they come, Dhoni got a wicket for good and Tendulkar bagged his 46th scalp in Test cricket with a straighter one that rapped Shillingford straight in front of middle stump.
Chanderpaul wasn’t at his usual self and looked lackluster like most of his teammates on the day and a beautiful top-spinner from Ashwin kissed the outside of his off-stump and West Indies folded out for 234 after sitting pretty at an imperious 138-2 at one stage.
With 12 overs to see off for the day, Dhawan and Vijay walked out to bat and were largely untroubled by some wayward West Indian bowling that hardly looked inspiring. India ended day one at 37/0 and had a lot to be happy about.
The second day of the Test match and India were expected to drive home the advantage of batting big once in the Test match but thanks to the way the surface played and some outstanding bowling from Shillingford, Indian top order fell apart and Sachin Tendulkar, who was most expected to make an impression was once again at the receiving end of a dubious umpiring decision. Indian scorecard read 83-5 halfway through the morning session on day 2. Dhoni joined the debutant Rohit Sharma in the middle and for a brief while during the 1st session on day 2, West Indies looked like clawing their way back into the game after a massive batting collapse.
Dhoni started opening out and started using the sweep shot against Shillingford, which proved to be a good option as long as Dhoni was at the crease. As like the 1st innings of the Test match when India got a replacement ball and suddenly things started to happen, the semi-new ball adopted by the umpires halfway through the West Indies’ innings paved the way for Tino Best to scalp his first wicket of the Test match with a nice out-swinger that made Dhoni feel for it outside his off-stump and ended up edging it to the wicket keeper. Dhoni’s wicket brought the resurrecting 73-run stand with Rohit Sharma to an end and India was still 78 runs behind the West Indies total.
But nemesis as they come in sport, yet again came to haunt West Indies in the form of Ashwin. At 156-6 and India in more than a spot of Bother, Ashwin started building a partnership with Rohit Sharma and as Ashwin started gaining moment, it was tough to differentiate who the proper batsman was. Ashwin was at his stylish best with strokes all around the clock and West Indies went into napping. Not to forget Rohit Sharma, getting a grasp of the wicket and conditions and then started to continue from where he left off against Australia at Bengaluru 5 days back.
Rohit and Ashwin kept making merry of tiring and often shambolic bowling from West Indians including Shillingford, who started to lose his bite as the day wore on. Rohit Sharma serenely continued his rich vein of form and brought up a highly satisfying debut century and Ashwin wasn’t left far behind as he matched Rohit Sharma with his contribution in their partnership and scoring rate. India ended day 2 at 354-6 and with a lead of 120, India were nicely bossing the game and West Indies had to go on the defensive from the word go on day 3.
20 minutes into day 3, Ashwin was knocking on the door for a 2nd century in his Test career and his 2nd century against the same West Indies at a different Indian venue. India started motoring along and were collecting 4-5 runs an over with utmost ease and West Indian fielders were praying for a declaration during some time in the day. When India reached 436, Rohit Sharma became another prey for Nigel Llong’s dubious decision making as he declared Rohit out to a delivery that struck him well outside the line of off stump.
Soon, the Indian tail was polished off by Shillingford and India ended their innings at 453, leading West Indies by 219. As much as the Kolkata crowd enjoyed the compassionate and charismatic Chris Gayle’s presence on the field, they probably expected a canter from Chris to start the West Indian innings. And right throughout his brief innings of 33, Gayle showed a glimmer of his ability with some punches of the back foot through the covers but was again done in by his nemesis in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, after he tried to pull a wide bouncer outside off stump and ended up giving a simple catch to Kohli at square-leg.
Kieran Powell took 33 balls to get off the mark and with Darren Bravo at no.3, both stitched together a 68-run stand and took the team total to 101 and yet again things seemed to be on track for West Indies. But a misbehavior from the pitch meant a length delivery from Ashwin kept low and struck Powell in line with the stumps and West Indies lost their 2nd wicket at 101.
Half-centurion from first innings, Samuels joined Darren Bravo but this time his stay in the crease was cut-short to just 5 runs as he missed a nipping in delivery from Shami that rapped his pads and a skeptical decision from umpire Llong left Samuels appalled and Indians unperturbed. West Indies went into tea on day 3 with 3 down and still over a 100 runs in arrears and the Test match looked comfortable to be heading into day 4.
Some astute and thoughtful captaincy from Dhoni to have a short-leg for Shami paid dividends as he tailed a ball back into Ramdin, who could do nothing but play it on to his pads and the ball ballooned up in the air for a simple catch to the waiting Vijay at short-leg. Half of the West Indian batting was back in the pavilion with floater Sammy and bowlers to follow and Chanderpaul in the middle.
After the drinks break in the final session of day 3, you didn’t know what happened but a splendid and breathtaking fast bowling spell from Shami in getting the “SG Test” ball to reverse, he uprooted West Indian lower order batsmen’ stumps on many an occasion and handed Indian public and Indian team a couple of extra days to rest over the weekend.
A memorable Test match for these reasons: Tendulkar’s 199th Test match, Rohit Sharma’s 177 on his debut Test match, Ashwin’s all round show and Shami’s explosive reverse swinging bowling heroics. On to Wankhede from November 14th for Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test match.Published 08 Nov 2013, 19:33 IST