Colin E. H. Croft
West Indies should have won Test No. 1 in Jamaica last week. Most times, if one team has the opposition 85-6, 1st innings, that batting team should not have made 200, more like 150 or so!
West Indies lost both its grip on the game, and the game then too. ‘That catch’; Darren Sammy dropping Rahul Dravid at slip, 2nd innings, allowing him to make 112; that so many have blamed for West Indies’ loss, was important, but not totally detrimental to their overall efforts.
Had India made 200, maximum, 1st innings, West Indies would have controlled the game, regardless. Psychology of sport is a very tough subject to understand; even harder to appreciate!
This is not the 1st time that this recovery has occurred, especially for India. In 1971, when none of the present West Indian or Indian players were yet born, India did similarly too.
While in high school, 1971 India was my real initiation to international cricket; 3rd Test played in Guyana. Having glimpsed Australia’s 1965 West Indies tour, and England’s 1968 West Indian tour, by jumping over fences in Regent Street, North Road, and from Georgetown Football Club, into Bourda Cricket Ground, India’s 1971 West Indies tour was the first tour that I followed fully.
By then, I was playing for Guyana’s Under-19 Youth team. Yet, like everyone else, from all over Guyana, by the thousands, I lined up, at Bourda, at 2:00am. Yes, it was that early every morning, so as to get into “School Boys Stand”, to see magnificent Test cricket and Test cricketers!
Unfortunately, standard Guyana rains; two days; killed any chance of a positive result in 1971; inevitable draw. At least, we saw three days of cricket. In 1976, the entire Test was abandoned there; rain too!
Test No. 1, 1971, India, also at Sabina Park, batting 1st too, was, at one stage 75-5. Then, Dilip Sardesai, described as “limpet-like”, overcame his supposed fallibility to pace, to make a glorious 212. He found a very useful ally in medium-paced left-handed all-rounder, Eknath Solkar, who made 75. That partnership was 137 runs. India made 387. From there, only India could have won that Test.
For that 1971 series, the recovery powers of India were incredible. West Indies was, in four Tests, in some position to win. By the end of that series, India, somehow, had been victorious; 1-0!
West Indies 1st Test, 1971, attack was fast bowlers Vanburn Holder and Grayson Shillingford, all-rounder extra-ordinaire (Sir) Garfield Sobers, off-spinner Jack Noreiga and right-arm leg-spinner Arthur Barrett. Even with five front line bowlers, maybe even seven; Sobers was three-in-one; West Indies still wilted!
By the time Test No. 1, 1971, was complete; drawn – just; West Indies had followed on. Had it not been for excellent batsmanship from Rohan Kanhai; 158 not out; and Sobers; 93; West Indies would have lost!
I would not insult Sobers and Kanhai to suggest that West Indies 2011 batting has even reasonable facsimiles there-of; not even one quarter. Therefore, the present team has to make its bowling work.
India’s 246, due to Suresh Raina’s 82; and Harbajan Singh’s 70; they moved India from 85-6 to 231-7; partnership 146; changed the direction of Test 1 – 2011. Only India could have won from there!
West Indies 2011 bowling, Test 1, was Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Darren Sammy and Devendra Bishoo. With one bowler obviously short, the selectors expected them to get 20 wickets. They did!
However, as well as they bowled, these were not Wes Hall, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Lance Gibbs, an imaginary combination. Edwards, Rampaul, Sammy and Bishoo did well, but also wilted! Those 20 Indian wickets cost way too many runs on that great cricketing pitch. India’s game aggregate should have been no more than 400, not 498, even accounting for Dravid’s 2nd innings 112!
Had that been the case, with all things else considered and completed, West Indies would have had to make 228 to win, not what was set; 98 runs more – 326. That one bowler short hurt West Indies badly!
Comparing Sardesai and Dravid is uncanny. The former was on his last tour of West Indies, as is the latter. Both have served the same function, presenting virtual ‘walls” on their tours here. Despite everything thrown at them, they have prevailed, generally, even though India did lose in 2001/2; 2-1.
In 1971, Test No. 2, at Queen’s Park Oval, Sunil Gavaskar’s debut Test, India won. West Indies selectors back then made a terrible mistake similar to what was committed in Jamaica last week.
They selected two good bowlers, Noriega and Barrett, and one great one, Sobers. Somehow, these were supposed to out-bowl; out-spin; two of the greatest spinners of all time – left-arm orthodox Bishen Singh Bedi and off-spinner Erapalli Prassana – aided and abetted by a very good one, off-spinner Srinivas Venkataraghavan, and another good one, orthodox left-arm spinner Salim Durani.
All this was to happen on the best spinners’ pitch in the Caribbean. In the end, it was not even close!
Jack Noriega got 9-95 in 1st innings, none in 2nd; Barratt three in Test; Sobers none. Bedi had five in the match; “Prass” four, “Venkat” six, and Durani, two. West Indies had been easily out-spun! The moral of this story is that unless your four bowlers are of very exceptionally high quality, a fifth bowler is usually needed!
West Indies was out batted then too. As expected, Sardesai made that fateful number; 112; 1st innings, helped by Solkar, 55, 1st innings, and Gavaskar; 65 and 67 not out. India won easily; by seven wickets!
Comparing, slightly, Gavaskar, on his debut series, 1971, and Suresh Raina, 9 Tests, one century, four 50’s, 482 runs, avg. 37.07, would not go amiss. Perhaps Raina should be better compared to Darren Bravo; six Tests; four 50’s, 372 runs, avg. 41.33. In time, these two will dominate their teams’ batting!
Test No. 4, 1971, was at Kensington Oval, as is Test No. 2, 2011. West Indies could only hope to make a comeback now, as was the hope in 1971. By game’s end, Test 4, 1971, West Indies was hanging on too!
It all started well for West Indies. Sobers hit 178 n o, while there were half centuries for wicket-keeper Desmond Lewis, Kanhai and Charlie Davis; West Indies 501-5 declared.
The standard Indian recovery applied again. Sardesai; 150; and Solkar; 65; made more than half of India’s eventual 347, helping them recover from 70-6. This had become the main theme!
West Indies gambled, and declared; 180-6 in 2nd innings, overall lead of 334. Does that ‘ask’ seem familiar? This time Gavaskar; 117 n o; and Solkar, not out, 10; brought India close; 221-5; for a draw!
Test No. 5, 1971, was historical. Gavaskar made 124 and 220, while Charlie Davis made 105 and Sobers 132. West Indies, needing 262 to win, hung on at 165-8 for a draw. India had won the 1971 series; 1-0!
Kensington Oval 2011, Test No. 2, could serve up history again too. How both teams go in 2nd Test could well be very inspired by exploits back in 1971. After Jamaica last week, anything can happen! Enjoy!
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