Indian triumph a notable achievement
by Partab Ramchand

Event:India in West Indies 2006

DateLine: 4th July 2006


Viewed dispassionately the Indian team’s triumph in the West Indies must rank among the notable feats in the history of Indian cricket. There is no purpose in trying to dilute the level of the achievement by arguing that the West Indies are a pale shadow of the great team of the 80s or that the squad has been suffering reverses one after another in recent years. At home itself the West Indies have in the last four years lost to New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa.


On the other hand one is all too familiar with India’s woeful away record. In the Caribbean islands itself the Indians had notched up only one series victory in eight trips and that was 35 years ago. The tag ``tigers at home, lambs abroad’’ suited the Indians despite an improved performance in away Tests in recent years notably under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly. Now with their latest triumph the Indian team under Rahul Dravid can hopefully approach the future with more confidence and set their eyes firmly on the World Cup - interestingly enough to be staged in the West Indies a little over six months from now.


No, there is no point in looking negatively at the 1-0 victory in the four Test series. Instead one must concentrate on the positives and put things in proper perspective and the first thing that comes to mind is that an inexperienced seam bowling line up played a notable role in shaping the triumph. The general consensus was that it would be impossible for the likes of Munaf Patel, VRV Singh and Sreesanth to bowl out the West Indies twice. After all whatever the shortcomings of the bowling the batting looked reasonably strong. And yet the pace attack shot out the West Indies twice for low scores at Kingston and even on less helpful surfaces at St John’s and St Lucia they came close to taking 20 wickets. VRV Singh’s role was of course limited but full marks to Sreesanth and Patel for making life out there hell for the West Indian batsmen, Lara included.


Given Anil Kumble’s uninspiring away record the veteran leg spinner was hardly expected to be a success and under the circumstances one must give three cheers and one more for this doughty warrior who has seen it all over the last 16 years. Approaching the Test series Kumble had an average of over 37 for every wicket taken away from home. Shrugging off this disturbing statistic Kumble bowled heroically first on his own and then with Harbhajan Singh to finish with 23 wickets. To realize the full implications of this feat let me point out that this is the second best by an Indian bowler in the West Indies after Subash Gupte’s 27 wickets (in five Tests but against much stronger opposition) in 1953. Kumble certainly has no intentions of calling it a day yet and why should he when, like all great spinners, he seems to be getting better with age. A tally of 600 wickets seemed to be unreasonable not too long ago; now it looks perfectly attainable.


Harbhajan added his mite with two five-wicket hauls in limited opportunities and this also exposed the team management’s folly of not playing him in the first two Tests. All in all the bowling, supposedly the weaker link, did much better than expected. The manner in which they strove gallantly on unhelpful surfaces and almost bowled India to victory in the first two Tests and then made the most of helpful conditions at Sabina Park displayed both resilience and skill – qualities that all good bowlers possess.


The batting of course was always going to be India’s strong point and if the bowlers performed above expectations it must be said that the batting did not fail. Four centuries plus a double hundred in the first three Tests testified to the mastery of Dravid and company over the West Indian bowling and if they did not exactly succeed at Kingston who can blame them? It was a pitch on which the batsmen were hopping and ducking, bobbing and weaving all the time but even on this pitch Dravid came up with two exemplary knocks and took one more step up in the Indian Batting Hall of Fame pantheon. The man of the match and man of the series awards were deservedly won and as captain this triumph will boost his confidence a great deal. Despite being captain for almost a year now he still seemed to be under Ganguly’s shadow but this victory will put Dravid firmly on the pedestal and perhaps his more notable days as a leader lie ahead.


Unfortunately even in this hour of triumph there are questions that need to be answered. The non-inclusion of Harbhajan in the first two Tests and the treatment meted out to Irfan Pathan need to be investigated. The victory in the Test series should not camouflage the unhappy aspects of the tour and one must also not forget that the one-day series was lost rather emphatically. But then again against this background the Indian team deserve even more credit for coming back after this reverse and winning the Test series in which they always looked the better team.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)