West Indies vs India 2019 Tests: A tale of top-orders in shambles
India has become the first team to cross the 100-point mark in the ICC World Test Championship. After sweeping the two-Test series against the West Indies, India gained 120 points to top the ICC World Test Championship table.
In the first Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at North Sound, Antigua, India crushed West Indies by 318 runs. This was India’s fourth-highest Test win and biggest away win in terms of the number of runs.
The second Test at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica was no better for the home team as they once again crumbled for scores of 117 and 210 to hand India a handsome victory by a margin of 257 runs.
The victory at Jamaica was Virat Kohli’s 28th Test win as Captain. With this win, Virat Kohli became India’s most successful Test Captain going past Sourav Ganguly (26) and MS Dhoni (27) in the series.
The find of the tour for India was Hanuma Vihari with scores of 32,93,111 and 53 not out in the series. Ajinkya Rahane finally got into some kind of a form after a prolonged lean patch. The Indian bowlers led by Jasprit Bumrah (13 wickets) and Ishant Sharma(11 wickets) were exceptional.
The one noticeable common factor between the two teams in the series has been the failure of the top-order right through the series. Though a series comprising four innings is not indicative of a trend, the collective failure has been quite apparent.
The Indian top-order
Though KL Rahul started the series on a positive note with scores of 44 and 38 in the first Test, he could not consolidate his decent form in the next Test with scores of 13 and 6. More than the lack of runs, it was the manner of his dismissals that would haunt Rahul forever.
Rahul had a wonderful opportunity to play his natural aggressive game in the second innings of the second Test when India batted on after securing a first-innings lead of 299 runs. But he struggled to reach 6 off 63 balls and as a result, India crawled to 57 for 4 in 29 overs.
The other Indian opener Mayank Agarwal had a remarkable debut series against Australia. But he could just manage a solitary half-century in the four innings that he batted in the series. For Agarwal, it was a forgettable tour.
India’s No 3 batsman Cheteshwar Pujara simply could not get going in the series as he managed a mere 60 runs in the series at an average of 15. Pujara found the pace and the inward movements of Kemar Roach too hot to handle.
In the first innings of the second Test, Pujara was first softened up by the fast bowlers before he became off-break bowler Rahkeem Cornwall’s maiden Test wicket. Even Virat Kohli had a moderate series by his standards resulting in him losing the No.-1 position in ICC Test Rankings.
On an otherwise successful tour of the Caribbean, the failure of the Indian top-order was a glaring deficiency.
The West Indian top-order
The less one comments about the West Indies top-order, the better. While John Campbell failed to cross 50 run aggregate in four innings of batting, his partner Kraigg Brathwaite had scores of 14,1,10 and 3 which would resemble a telephone number.
Like John Campbell, Darren Bravo too failed to aggregate 50 runs in the series. New-comer Shamarh Brooks managed to score a 50 in the last innings of the series but by that time it was too late for the hosts.
In the first innings of the first Test, West Indies were reduced to 50 for 3 while in the second innings it was even worse with the scorecard reading 37 for 7. The top-order failure continued in the second Test too with the home team slipping to 22 for 5 in the first innings.
The reasons behind the collective failures of the Top-order in the series
The fast bowlers from either team were relentless and they kept coming at the batsmen. Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma were unplayable so were Roach and Jason Holder. The fast bowlers never allowed the top-order batsmen to settle down.
From the batsmen’s point of view, they lacked the concentration to survive the early burst from the fast bowlers with the new ball. They were more than willing to surrender their wickets at the first available opportunity.
The early juice in the wicket hasn’t helped the batsmen’s cause either and in that respect, Jason Holder was lucky to win the toss on both the occasions. He did the right thing by not exposing his top-order to the rampaging Indian fast bowlers. In spite of all that, the West Indies batting failed to click on an eased out wicket.
The tearaway fast bowlers from either side on lively wickets against technically inept batsmen ensured that the entire series was a tale of top-order in shambles.