RAJKOT: Two days into the first Test against the West Indies and the people of Rajkot have delivered their verdict. Three Indian batsmen, including local hero Ravindra Jadeja, scored centuries. There were two near-misses as well as India put up 649, their highest against this opposition.
Yet, the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium saw very few come out and cheer for the No 1 Test side taking on the team ranked eighth. As the on-field action proved, the team from the Caribbean hardly put up a fight. After their recent home series exploits and memorable matches against England and Pakistan in the recent past, there were expectations that they can make this contest exciting.
But the visitors lost captain Jason Holder to an ankle injury, principal pacer Kemar Roach left for home following the death of his grandmother, and it all went downhill for them. While the bowlers looked bereft of confidence, stand-in skipper Kraigg Brathwaite was unable to inspire his coterie of players. As soon as the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Virat Kohli and Jadeja got going, shoulders started to droop. By the end of the second day, the question doing the rounds was, is this side good enough to compete consistently against top teams?
“We let the game slip away yesterday, giving them a fantastic start,” said bowling coach Corey Collymore. “Except that middle period, we didn’t build enough pressure and sustain it at any given time. We started really short and wide to Mr Shaw on debut. I know he’s a good player, I saw him in the under-19s and we played him in the practice game. But for me, it’s still 22 yards and the lengths don’t change. We have to be better at that going forward,” he said.
Even Jadeja, who scored a first ton in his 38th Test, admitted the inexperience of the opposition was glaring. “They are a young side, full of debutants. Playing in the subcontinent can be hard but they will learn with time”. With such sparse attendance, does it mean the locals have had enough of Test cricket and prefer only the fast-paced versions of the sport? “Indians, especially people from here, are all cricket-crazy. The tremendous heat is the main factor. Otherwise, people come and watch all formats of the game,” said Jadeja. Take nothing away from Jadeja’s effort though. Having been in and out of the side in the recent past, he himself admitted trying to impress in every opportunity is not easy. “I have not played a lot in 2018. So you just have to perform each time you get the opportunity. My job is to prove to myself that I have done well,” he said.
The left-hander displayed rare calmness out in the middle and with the ton coming right after his Asia Cup heroics and a valiant effort with the bat in the final Test in England, it should augur well for India with much tougher assignments in the pipeline.
Coming back to this Test, such contests will only increase the clamour for creating a two divisions or to shorten the duration of the game to four-day fixtures. With the advent of T20s and 100-ball cricket, the special status Test holds might diminish further. “Players have their own choice as to which format suits them but Test cricket will remain special no matter what,” Jadeja said.
However, the truth is that the greatest threat to Test cricket — by a long margin — is the disparity in standards between Test-playing nations. The paying public does not want to watch unequal contests and the first Test has been a classic example of that.
217 Runs conceded by Devendra Bishoo in his 54 overs is the second-most for a West Indies bowler in an innings.
India (1st innings): Kohli c Bishoo b Lewis 139, Pant c Paul b Bishoo 92, Jadeja (not out) 100, Ashwin c Dowrich b Bishoo 7, Kuldeep lbw Bishoo 12, Umesh c Lewis b Brathwaite 22, Shami (not out) 2, Extras (b9, lb1, nb4) 14, Total (9 wkts, 149.5 ovs) 649/9 decl.
FoW: 1-3, 2-209, 3-232, 4-337, 5-470, 6-534, 7-545, 8-571, 9-626.
Bowling: Gabriel 21-1-84-1, Paul 15-1-61-0, Lewis 20-0-93-2, Bishoo 54-3-217-4, Chase 26-1-137-1, Brathwaite 13.5-1-47-1.
West Indies (1st innings): Brathwaite b Shami 2, Powell lbw Shami 1, Hope b Ashwin 10, Hetmyer (run out) 10, Ambris c Rahane b Jadeja 12, Chase (batting) 27, Dowrich b Kuldeep 10, Paul (batting) 13, Extras (b8, lb1) 9, Total (6 wickets, 29 overs) 94.
FoW: 1-2, 2-7, 3-21, 4-32, 5-49, 6-74.
Bowling: Shami 6-2-11-2, Umesh 7-1-14-0, Ashwin 7-0-32-1, Jadeja 5-1-9-1, Kuldeep 4-1-19-1.