Before the third Test started, the West Indies skipper Carl Hooper spoke about his team playing for pride and salvage some respect.
He and Shivnaraine Chanderpaul are the only two members of the West Indies team, which in its heyday, mowed down the opposition and invariably had a day or two to spare in Test matches.
Though there are some others who have been part of West Indian teams that have won recently, they have not been part of the West Indies juggernaut that overwhelmed anybody who came in their way. Somewhere along the line in the last two or three years the West Indies have not only lost the winning habit, but also the awe in which opponents held them. More than anything else it was the West Indian pace bowling firepower that unnerved the opposition and their batsmen then pounded the opposition bowlers into submission with their audacious strokeplay.
Today’s West Indian bowlers, though better-built externally do not have that same intense churning inside that made Roberts, Holding, Marshall and Co. run in and bowl ball after ball at 90 mph plus in the hottest and coldest of places and it did not matter whether the pitch helped or not. It was just the attitude and the approach that made them look hostile even on the most placid of pitches.
Twelve bouncers in the first three or four overs was not a surprise but today to get ten in the pre-lunch session would raise eyebrows. No wonder the Indian tail wagged and added valuable runs for they were fed pitched-up deliveries. Even in the limited short deliveries bowled to the Indians, how many have been hooked or pulled and how many played awkwardly. What use are the laptops if they don’t record the bowlers’ inadequacies'
A flash of the old arrogance of West Indies’ batting was provided by Wavell Hinds, who with Chris Gayle gave the West Indies the kind of start they were looking for. The loose ball was despatched without fuss to the boundary and eye contact kept with the bowler throughout.
When Hinds played the shot that got him his century it was terrific to see Gayle at the other end pump his fist too even as he started off for the hundredth run for his partner.
Theirs is a good combination and they seem to thrive in each other’s company. Gayle looked a tad too watchful after Hinds’ departure and so missed out on a century. Hinds is jut the cricketer to lift this team up and the quicker he is given more responsibility the better for West Indies cricket. He should be groomed for the top job and primed to take over after the World Cup. The responsibility will also ensure that he will be more consistent than he is at the moment.
Chanderpaul has been a thorn in the Indian flesh for quite a while now and he is averaging almost a 100 against them. The Indians have not yet found a chink in his armour and it has taken exceptional deliveries like the one Kumble bowled and Patel caught in Chennai to get rid of the stodgy left-hander.
In an array of strokeplayers he brings the studied calm that balances the books. He found in Marlon Samuels just the partner he needed. Samuels reminds one of the Hooper of 1987, the same calm, collected method and the elegance too.
India’s bowlers, who enjoyed themselves on the first two Test pitches, looked clueless when confronted with this slow Eden Gardens pitch. The exception was Harbhajan, who with his wonderful variation looked the only bowler likely to get a wicket. The others looked pedestrian, which perhaps explains why India struggles to bowl sides out overseas.