Final opporunity for India

2006 Jun 30 by DreamCricket

India have not won a major series outside of Asia for 20 years and it shows.

The ongoing series between India and the West Indies has to be one of the direst involving two major cricketing powers, in recent memory. There is still time for it to be rescued from the doldrums with the fourth,— and mercifully, —final Test beginning in Kingston, Jamaica on Friday.

Truth to tell, the players on both sides are not entirely to blame. As I mentioned in last week’s column, the World Cup football being played simultaneously in Germany has taken much of the gloss off the cricket, even for Indian fans back home who are doubly handicapped by the time difference between India and the Caribbean.

The scheduling is also all wrong and Lara's recent statements confirmed what I have said in my column last week. Till a couple of years back it was unheard of to play cricket in that part of the world in May/June, the wettest months. Now with the packed international calendar making a mockery of traditional seasons—international cricket being played in India in late April being another crazy example—the ideal months of March/April in the West Indies (when the World Cup is to be staged next year) is being stretched to ridiculous lengths.

Frankly, the standard of cricket on display, with a couple of exceptions, has been sub-standard. India have not won a major series outside of Asia for 20 years and it shows. Even against probably the weakest West Indies team of all time, they have not been able to ram home the advantage.

This was painfully evident in the first Test when the Windies tail held out for a draw with the last pair hanging on for 19 deliveries. The debate over the composition and number of bowlers (four or five?) in the Indian XI started from then and has continued right through the series. The continuous sniping back home by former India greats with axes to grind has only made things worse for the team.

The biggest plus-point in the series from the Indian point of view has been the success of Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag at the top of the order. The jury still out on the trio of rookie pace bowlers.

But the drastic and inexplicable loss of form suffered by Irfan Pathan has set the whole team effort back. He was a vital cog in the set-up till just a few months back and was rapidly assuming the role of an all-rounder. Whether Pathan is suffering from a technical or psychological deficiency is something the Indian think-tank will have to figure out and fast.

With rain affecting every Test match, it is fair to say that India would have won the first two without the weather interruptions and West Indies the third if the rain had not intervened at vital stages. Back in 2002 when Windies cricket was also at a low, the inability of captain Sourav Ganguly to escape defeat really rankled.

Considering the paucity of talent at his disposal, it is not all that surprising that Lara has adopted a safety-first attitude. Dravid must pounce on the negative mind-set of his counterpart. Kingston provides the final opportunity for the Indians to make amends for 2002.