| Shiv Sundar Das, Anil Kumble, Virender Sewhag and Parthiv Patel celebrate the dismissal of Ramnaresh Sarwan at the Wankhede on Friday. (Reuters)
Mumbai, Oct.11: The West Indies’ chief selector, Sir Issac Vivian Alexander Richards, hasn’t been imposing himself but, yes, he has frequently been reminding players of how he himself made the most of opportunities on his maiden tour, to India, in 1974-75.
Though this Test series, for the Exide Cup, is only three days old, the chief selector’s message hasn’t made much of an impact. One assumes Sir Issac will be speaking to Carl Hooper and the rest once more, before Day-IV (Saturday) at the Wankhede, but it’s to be seen whether that inspires a performance out-of-the-ordinary.
If it doesn’t, the West Indies are destined for a quick defeat. Following-on exactly 300 behind — after being dismissed for an embarrassing 157 — they were 91 for one at stumps Friday. The wicket isn’t an enigma but, at home, the Indians get even the most determined to wilt.
Significantly, as his bowlers had operated in conditions marginally better than the first two days, Sourav Ganguly had a word with them before enforcing the follow-on. “That there’s a good chance of rain on the scheduled last day (Sunday), also influenced my decision. At the same time, the bowlers were only too willing to have another go,” Sourav told The Telegraph.
Delighted with that attitude, the captain added: “They have already done a fantastic job, even though the wicket hardly offered assistance.”
Resuming at the overnight 33 for two, the West Indies slipped into more trouble when Anil Kumble got Ramnaresh Sarwan, somebody with plenty of potential, leg-before in the day’s eighth over. Next, it was nightwatchman Mervyn Dillon’s turn. Having batted for 69 minutes by the time Jawagal Srinath claimed him, the quick nevertheless did his job.
Dillon’s exit brought the top pair — Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Hooper — together. Till they were unseparated, the West Indies did have good reasons hoping for a recovery. After all, the last series (in the Caribbean) saw both amass well over 500 commanding runs each.
Here, the two had stitched the innings’ most productive partnership (44), when the captain pulled Zaheer Khan straight to ‘birthday boy’ Sanjay Bangar. Hooper let himself and his team down. As for Zaheer, that big wicket brought out the best, carrying him to a career-best four for 41.
Varying the pace and length, besides getting the ball to reverse-swing, Zaheer got Ryan Hinds and Ridley Jacobs, too, rather quickly. While Ryan was deceived by the slower one, Jacobs fell to a superb catch by Sourav. From 103 for four, the West Indies plunged to 123 for seven. Zaheer’s golden spell (7-1-20-3) was his second of the day.
Perhaps, inspired, it was Kumble’s turn to tie the West Indies in knots: Actually, he grabbed the last three wickets to take his haul to 337. Chanderpaul, last out, finished top scorer. Later, satisfied with the way he bowled, Kumble did make the point about the present (relaid) wicket “not being of the traditional kind”.
Looking ahead, Kumble observed: “Given the position we are in, we must look to consistently applying pressure from both ends... A couple of wickets quickly, on the fourth morning, and victory should soon be ours... It’s in our hands to force a quick result.”
Talking about his own bowling, Kumble smiled and said: “With time, batsmen tend to sort you sort. And, so, you’ve got to try new things... Try and alter the pace, for instance... At the same time, it’s important to stick with what you know best. That, at least, has been my approach.”
It’s been paying off.
Incidentally, the West Indies’ second innings got off to a whirlwind start, thanks to the gifted Wavell Hinds who decided he had to be positive in an ambience thick with minuses. He may have been helped by loose bowling, yet it required some nerve to tear into the Indian attack under such intense pressure.
As it turned out, a shuffle saw Wavell expose his leg-stump and the wily Harbhajan Singh slipped one through, bowling him around the legs. Wavell’s 40 came off just 34 deliveries (9x4).
Chris Gayle and Sarwan played out the 64 minutes till stumps and, if they were steady to the point of being boring, Bangar scripted excitement of sorts. Tending to bowl short, he was cautioned by David Shepherd. The umpire, rather surprisingly, felt “intimidation” was being resorted to.
At Bangar’s pace, it will be difficult to knock off even a fly.