A closely fought contest on the cards
by Partab Ramchand

Event:India in West Indies 2006

DateLine: 17th May 2006


On the face of it, there is every reason to be optimistic about India’s chances in the five match one-day international series commencing at Kingston on Thursday. The disparity in the rankings is there for all to see and on recent performances it is difficult not to put the visitors in the favourites’ circle. And when the two teams are put alongside it would appear that the Indians have a clear edge especially in the bowling department.


But there is a sharp shift in the scenario when a couple of other aspects come under close observation. One is India’s past record in the Caribbean. The one day series here was lost in 1983, 1989 and 1997 while the Indians won the three match series the last time out there in 2002 by two matches to one. Secondly India’s recent impressive performances have been showcased in the sub continent. And as even a diehard Indian cricket fan will admit overall the team’s record on foreign soil has been patchy to put it mildly.


Little wonder then that Rahul Dravid has maintained the refrain ``we will not take the West Indians lightly’’ at press conferences before leaving home and on arrival in Kingston. The 33-year-old captain has displayed a sensible approach. Besides making sure that his young and largely inexperienced squad does not become complacent his carefully though out utterances also indicate a healthy respect for the opposition. And any opposition with the likes of Brian Lara, Chris Gayle, Runako Morton, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo needs to be respected.


It is true that West Indian cricket has seen better days but somehow when the opposition is India their players are able to rise to the occasion and pull a rabbit out of the hat. When the Indians toured the islands in 1997 and 2002 the home team’s heady days clearly belonged to a bygone era and they were struggling. Yet they managed to win the Test series on both occasions, the first time bowling out the Indians for 81 when the target was only 120 for the only decisive result in the five match contest and the second time coming back from being 0-1 down to finish 2-1 ahead. Two examples from limited over contests too would not be out of place. In 1997 it was generally perceived that India had the edge over a seemingly weak Caribbean side. The home team won by three matches to one. On the previous tour in 1989 the Indians had notched up some impressive results going into the tour and it was thought they were capable of putting up a fight. At the end of the series, the result was: Played 5, West Indies won 5.


The sweeping result over Zimbabwe too must have boosted the confidence of the home team. It matters little that the result was along expected lines or that the opposition was not in the same class. A win is a win, a whitewash is a whitewash and it may be noted that all the principal batsmen were among the runs – something that augurs ill for the Indian bowling line up.


If there is a weak link in the West Indian line up it is the bowling and this is where the Indians will have to turn the heat on fully. Sehwag and Dhoni, Dravid and Yuvraj, Kaif and Raina must not miss an opportunity to make a pile for the way I see it the Caribbean batsmen are capable of matching anything the lustrous and more fancied Indian line up can dish out. In the ultimate analysis the fate of the series may hinge on which bowling line up can withstand the expected onslaught better.


I normally love making predictions on the eve of a series. But I am not prepared to stick my neck out this time. All I will say is that it is going to be an action packed closely contested series. So let’s sit back and enjoy the cricket.


(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)