India touring West Indies for a 4 Test match series. There has been considerable amount of planning and effort put into this series, with the Indian team travelling to the Caribbean Islands,2 weeks in advance, to familiarize with the foreign conditions, playing couple of tour games with a keen intent to better their Test record when they travel on the road. India ranked 2nd compared to the lowly 8th of the West Indies, it was an opportunity for the Virat Kohli lead brigade to be ruthless and make a strong statement.
The 1st Test in Antigua was a cake walk, the skipper and in form batting mainstay, Kohli amassing a 200 and the ace spinner Ashwin producing an incredible all round effort, starting with a hundred with the bat and following it up with a 7 wicket haul in the West Indian second innings, in turn leading the team to a thumping win by an innings and 92 runs.
Come the 2nd Test match in Jamaica, Jason Holder the West Indies skipper won the toss and elected to bat, but to his dismay, his team’s fortunes did not improve, as they were skittled out on the 1st day for 192 in only 52.3 overs. It looked like a long Test match for the Windies. India went on to score 500/9 declared and Day 4 ended with the home team in a precarious position at 48/4. Things looked quite grim for Jason Holder’s boys, with their only hope being the mother nature showers the final day off.
What turned out was an incredible rear guard action by the West Indian middle order who rallied and rallied hard to ensure their team don’t lose the Test match. Blackwood started the Day 5 attacking the Indian bowling on his way to a quick fire 63 of only 54 balls. But, the man who was a pillar of confidence in the middle for the Windies was Roston Chase, playing only his second Test match, beaming in confidence on the back of a 5 wicket haul in his bowling effort, batted right through the Day 5, finishing with an impeccable 137 n.o. well supported by first their keeper Dowrich with a 74 and then the skipper himself, Holder with a 64 n.o.
It was enthralling and the middle order, led by Chase, echoed the frame of mind of the captain and management’s thought process, of fighting and showing character and being patient and putting a value on to their wicket and in turn making life difficult for the opposition. This does a world of good for the home side and make the tournament more competitive.
In hindsight, 5 critical junctures where Team India lost the plot.
- After skittling out the West Indies for a partly 192 on Day 1 of 52.3 overs, India started their chase on a solid note finishing with 500/9 declared but in 171 overs at 2.9 runs per over. This batting effort turned the tide against India. Knowing the forecast was for strong spells of rain and thunder showers, their middle order needed to accelerate and dominate the bowling attack and not meandering at a slow pace.
- When the Captain and Team Management talk about being attacking and playing 5 bowlers in order to take 20 opposition wickets, the backing of the inconsistent Amit Mishra and erratic Umesh Yadav is highly questionable. Both of whom are incredibly consistent in bowling few good balls among many loose deliveries in process taking the pressure off opposition batsmen. The idea of 5 bowlers may be right, but, the personnel picked for fulfilling this responsibility might not be.
- At the stroke of lunch on Day 3, India were leading by 229 runs with Rahane batting on 74. The team should have immediately gone for quick runs and declared as early as possible considering the weather forecast. Instead, they batted tortuously without showing any intent for 20 overs adding 70 odd runs. When the opposition is down, the team needs to take control and make a strong statement. What transpired is that, an individual named Roston Chase, playing only his second test match was gifted with cheap wickets, giving him a much needed morale boost, who batted and saved the game for his team
- Day 5 started with West Indies at a dangerous positon of 48/4. Instead of starting with the most attacking option of Ashwin and Shami, Kohli let the game slip by starting the day with Mishra, who has a history of being short and loose and inconsistent and leaking too many runs. That was exactly what happened as the nervous energies of Blackwood and Chase quickly transpired into confidence. And when Ashwin was brought into the attack later in the day, the damage was already done.
- After Tea on the last day, India had to quickly take 4 wickets to polish the tail and give themselves a chance to chase down a total if required to win the Test match. But, Kohli again started the post Tea session with Ishant Sharma, who was bowling short and outside off or down the leg. Being the most experienced of the Indian bowlers and when the caption hands him the ball to produce something for his team, he should be making the batsmen play and/or try to induce some false shots by the batsmen. But again, Kohli brought Ashwin very late yet again and the rest as they say is history