On the first day of the 3-game Test series between second-string Indian team team and considerably current best team yet second string West Indies test team at Sabina Park, hosts had a hearty laugh when they brought the top-ranked ICC Test team flat on the mat. Favorite India could smile in the end due to a record stand between surprise pick Raina and ‘Allrounder’ Harbhajan.
Is WI Bowling Still Feared
Taking cue from the open secret that First match of the series is the toughest test for India, weak or strong team, West Indies smelled victory. Surprisingly Dhoni elected to bat first. Earlier Dhoni has already expressed how wary India was of West Indies fast bowlers. Although the likes of Gavaskar, Wadekar and even Srikkanth, who have faced lethal fast bowling during Golden era of West Indies, would have liked to ask, if given the opportunity, if Edwards, Rampaul and Sammy are so feared then should India be proud of calling itself the top test team!!
India bat, First Session
So, after lunch and first few overs of second session top 6 batsmen of India were back in the pavillion. Some went to pacers Rampaul and Edwards, and some fell to the dangerous spinner Bishoo. With scoreboard not even crossing 90 runs, another low score was on the cards. The small island of West Indies was getting the news that home team is on top, crowd was slowly gathering in to see the unexpected slaughter of the top-ranked team by their unbelievably weak team, considering the vast talent they still have outside playing eleven. They heard Raina and Harbhajan are batting and it is a matter of just four tailenders before West Indies could start batting to take lead, may be on the first day itself.
Surprise Pick Raina
Raina was picked for the test match, ahead of Badrinath, Rohit Sharma and even Parthiv Patel. Interestingly, like many other decisions, the reason for picking could be completely attributed to Dhoni’s insight, which more than often succeeds as one should not term the Champion magician captain as one of those who blindly promotes his favorite players. Logically, if past test performance were to be considered, Raina and Badrinath had the chance to be picked. Probably considering the difficult last series Badrinath had the edge, as Raina had performed only at batting pitches of Sri Lanka. If one considers the ODI series performance against West Indies, Badrinath and Raina should have been overlooked. Rohit Sharma or Parthiv Patel must hav fought the battle for the empty slot. Yet, Raina played the game and the gamble worked, so all questions quashed.
Raina and Harbhajan – The Saviour
Raina looked firm in defence and solid in attack too, in the later part of his innings. Harbhajan played one of the best knock of his Test life. His ninth Test Fifry got 70 runs. But more than that his first few shots forced the West Indies team to save the boundaries. Till then, when top 6 batsmen were batting, the players were hunting around the crease to look for snicks and mistimed catches coming out of defensive shots.
Raina and Harbhajan remained together for almost one session and they added 146 runs. Harbhajan completed his half-century first, then Raina joined him and overtook him scoring 82 runs. Harbhajan scored 70 runs. After Harbhajan was out due to the catch on one of the best dives in Test history, by Bishoo, on the bowling of Edwards, probably due to adrenaline flow getting higher, other three batsmen showed why lower order is called as tail. They follow the head blindly. As the head succumbed, the tail just followed and last three wickets fell adding only 6 runs more. Raina too could add just 2 runs after BHaji’s departure as he went on to try for quick runs as players on other hand refused to show some spine. Probably these are the das when one remembers Kumble and many other tailenders who at least fight, rather than just letting the ball to send them to pavillion as soon as possible.
West Indies Bowlers
Edwards and Rampaul were no Hall, Roberts, Garner, Marshall, Patterson, Walsh or even closer likes of them. Still the high-flying Indian players, including the quality players like Laxman and Dravid just could not sustain the pressure of playing an Away match. Bishoo bowled well, but he got wickets because batsmen wanted to defend without any plan. How can one define his first-ball wicket of Laxman!! Or even the wicket of Dhoni!! Hope the Indian batsmen will show some class from next innings.
With 246 runs on board, Indians can smile. Except the record th wicket stand for India at Sabina Park, between Raina and Harbhajan who added 146 runs, only 100 runs were added. They could not even play 75 overs in the day. Hopefully nobody will blame ODIs for the disaster now, in the same way ass T20s were blamed during poor Indian batting performance in ODIs.
Indian Fate Lies on their Bowlers
West Indies have also lost one wicket scoring only 34 runs at the end of the first day. More than Indian batsmen, it will be tough test for Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra. While Praveen Kumar has the best opportunity to prove that he is ready for Test matches, after being one of the best bowler in ODIs, Ishant Sharma would be laughing at getting the opportunity again, despite doing nothing to deserve the place, at least in past few series. Amit Mishra has the opportunity to cement his place as partner of Harbhajan. But if these three bowlers fail to succeed the second-string West Indies batting may go on to create some batting records too. And Harbhajan will be the sole saviour of Indian in bowling also, as he was in batting with Raina.
Ishant did strike early in West Indies innning, but Barath and Sarwan managed to pass 20-vers test. Yet for the team where three players made test debut- Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar and Abhinav Mukund – the task is tough, although not impossible considering Dhoni’s magic. They know that they cannot afford to lose a single test. In fact, even a draw would be considered India’s loss only.
Let us wait for second day to see which is the real second-string team – India or West Indies.