IT wasn't really an upset result
by Partab Ramchand

Event:India in West Indies 2006

DateLine: 29th May 2006


It may, on the face of it, seem like a major upset. After all it does not happen every time that a team rated eighth comfortably gets the better of a side perched five notches higher in the ICC rankings. But on closer scrutiny it will be seen that West Indies’ 4-1 victory over India in the ODI series that concluded in Port of Spain on Sunday cannot be termed as a surprise result.


India’s inflated position was due in the main to a series of satisfactory results achieved on the sub continent. India’s dismal away record is too well chronicled to warrant repeating here and that is why I had mentioned in my preview that I did not agree with the majority opinion that had India as firm favourites to take the series. Moreover their patchy record in the Caribbean where they had lost the ODI series in 1983, 1989 and 1997 before narrowly winning the three match series 2-1 in 2002 should have served as a warning.


Granted that the West Indies whether at home or abroad had done little of note in recent years apart from their triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2004. In fact just a year ago they had to endure two whitewashes at home – 5-0 to South Africa and 3-0 to Pakistan. But as I related earlier somehow against India even a seemingly emaciated West Indian side has so often been able to rise to the occasion and, well, they did it again.


Only this time one can’t help coming to the conclusion that this is a West Indian side on the move again after years of slumber. Clearly this is not a one off show. Under Brian Lara’s shrewd and inspiring leadership the young and inexperienced team is showing distinct signs of a revival. It may be too early to say that they will be serious contenders for the World Cup to be staged in their own backyard next year but certainly they cannot be taken lightly anymore. The batting is adventurous in the best Caribbean tradition, the fielders have displayed an amazing ability to pull off the half chances and the supposedly weak link, the bowling, is showing signs of maturity. And in Dwayne Bravo they have an all rounder who has the potential to become one of the world’s leading players.


For the Indian team on the other hand this is one series they would like to forget in a hurry. Much of the blame for the defeat must fall on the much vaunted batting line up which even in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar did seem to have the necessary firepower to put the West Indian bowling to the sword. But unable to come to terms on the slower pitches they failed to live up to their reputation and faulty or irresponsible shot selection at crucial junctures caused a slide. Symbolizing the shoddy show was the inability of Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag to finish off the job in the second and fifth matches. By contrast Ramnaresh Sarwan in a similar situation in the third game came good while Bravo’s famous slower delivery cum yorker that clinched the second ODI and clearly marked the turning point in the series is now part of West Indian cricket folklore. The Indian bowling, on reputation the weaker link, was seen in better light but here again towards the end of the series there was a perceptible fall in the standards.


What did not help matters was Greg Chappell’s needless effort to try and inject mind games by remarking at the end of the first ODI that the West Indians were chokers and that they had forgotten how to win. As Lara admitted it was this ``sly remark’’ by the Indian coach that acted as a catalyst for them in coming back strongly in the series. ``The guys took notice of his statement and we turned the tables," said the West Indian captain. Chappell should remember that sometimes when silence is golden it is a folly to try and be wise.


How far the empathic loss in the ODI series is going to affect the Indians’ performance in the Test series is a moot point. But it is clear that the home team at the moment holds a clear psychological advantage. What’s more the visitors will not be playing a Test at their favourite venue – Port of Spain - where India has notched up all its three victories in 38 Tests in the West Indies. The Indians first of all will have to play up to potential to have any chance of shocking the West Indies. And yes, if India win the series it will constitute a major upset considering the fact that India has emerged triumphant in just one of eight contests in the Caribbean.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)