India vs WI - Spin to win has been the mantra against the Windies batsmen
It is an open secret that the West Indies batsmen have been traditionally weak against spin across generations. In every series in the past, India faced the might of the West Indies batsmen with the wits of their spinners.
For the youths of this generation, it may sound funny when the term “mighty” is associated with the West Indies batsmen. They might not have had the chance to witness Greenidge, Haynes, Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Larry Gomes, Rohan Kanhai, Richie Richardson, Carl Hooper, and Brian Lara bat. Not to forget the legend Gary Sobers.
All the great batsmen from the Caribbean had an inherent weakness against the Indian spinners, especially in the matches played on Indian soil.
On the eve of the first Test match between India and West Indies, let us travel through time to spot the impact the Indian spinners had on the West Indies batsmen.
1. Port of Spain, 1971
This series was the beginning of the “sunny days” in Indian cricket. Sunil Gavaskar made his debut in this match and scored 65 and 67 not out. But before that, the Indian spin trio of Bishan Singh Bedi(3), Prasanna(4) and S. Venkataraghavan(1) managed to dismiss West Indies for 214 in the first innings. Gavaskar’s favourite batsmen Rohan Kanhai scored 37.
In the second innings, the Indian spinners once again got into the act when Bedi(2) and Venkataraghavan(5) combined to dismiss the Windies for 261. India had their first Test win in West Indies when they won this match by 7 wickets
2. Port of Spain, 1976
This was the famous Test match in which India successfully chased down the fourth innings target of 403. It was a record chase in Test matches at that time. Apart from the contribution of the Indian batsmen Gavaskar(102), Mohinder Amarnath(85) and G.R. Viswanath(112), the Indian spinners Bedi, Venkataraghavan, and Chandrasekhar took all the 16 wickets that had fallen in the West Indies innings.
This was the match which forced the change in tactics for the West Indies team to go on an all-out attack with express pace. When Clive Lloyd found out to his disbelief that his 3 spinners couldn’t defend a target of 400 in the fourth innings of a Test match, he abandoned the idea of spin option in the subsequent matches. Lloyd decided to go with an all-out pace attack which was a nightmare for the batsmen of that generation.
3. Madras, 1987 – The Hirwani magic
This was the match in which Narendra Hirwani made his dream Test debut. Ravi Shastri captained the team for the first and last time in the absence of Dilip Vengsarkar due to injury.
The West Indies were facing the mystery leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani for the first time. They were all at sea as Hirwani finished with figures of 8 for 61 in the first innings and 8 for 75 in the second innings.
The pitch used in the match was under-prepared. Hirwani was aided by the under-prepared pitch as he managed to dismiss the West Indies giants Vivian Richards, Carl Hooper, Gus Logie, and Jeff Dujon twice in the match. Because of Hirwani’s effort, India rolled over the West Indies by 255 runs.
4. Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica, 2006
This was the match in which the Indian spin twin Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh came to the party.
India batted first and posted a modest score of 200, but that score looked formidable when West Indies slumped to 53 for 3. Harbhajan was introduced into the attack. He thoroughly exploited the weakness of the West Indies batsmen to spin by claiming 5 wickets in 5 overs. West Indies were bundled out for 103 in the first innings.
In the second innings, West Indies were set a target of 268 to win the match. That was when Kumble joined the fun and took 6 for 78. West Indies were bowled out for 219 and India won the match by 49 runs.
Another failure by the West Indies batsmen against the Indian spinners.
5. The Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai 2013
This was Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell match. He finished his career with a score of 74 in the only innings he batted.
While all the attention was on Tendulkar, the Indian spinners R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha slipped in with a quiet performance. The West Indies batsmen’s struggle against spin continued as Ashwin took 3 wickets and Ojha 5 as West Indies were shot out for 182 in the first innings.
India amassed 495 in the first innings on the back of centuries from Pujara and Rohit Sharma. It was the turn of Ashwin(4) and Ojha(5) to once again exploit the batsmen’s weakness against quality spin. India won the match by an innings and 126 runs. It was a fitting farewell to the legend, Sachin Tendulkar.
The past performances of the West Indies batsmen against the Indian spinners were not at all inspiring. Again, in the forthcoming Test series against the West Indies, the mantra for Team India would be “spin to win"
R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Kuldeep Yadav would be licking their fingers and looking forward to bowl to the West Indies batsmen. An exciting series for the Indian spinners is on the cards.