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Best of the Tests: West Indies in India


India_West_Indies_Test_CricketThe recently concluded two-match series against the West Indies was India’s only home Test assignment this season. The West Indies needed to defy recent history if they were to succeed–the last time they beat India in a Test was in 2002, while their last series win in India came in 1994-95–and not surprisingly, they came a cropper, losing both Tests within three days.

However, despite this barren run in the last 24 years, the West Indies still boast a favourable record of 14 wins and 13 losses from 47 Tests in India, dating back to their first tour in 1948-49, which shows the extent to which they dominated the Indians during their heyday. Here is a trip down memory lane, as we look back at five classic Test matches played between the two teams on Indian soil.

Fifth Test, Bombay, 1948-49

After settling for high-scoring draws in their first three Tests in India, the West Indies stormed to a 1-0 lead with an innings win in the fourth Test at Madras, and thus came into the final Test at the Brabourne Stadium brimming with confidence. As was the case in the previous four matches, John Goddard won the toss and elected to bat. Dattu Phadkar (4/74) reduced the score to 27/2, after which Jeffrey Stollmeyer (85) and Everton Weekes (56) added 110 for the third wicket.

The hosts kept chipping away with regular wickets, and bowled out the West Indies for 286 in the first session of the second day. India’s reply was ordinary, as a collective bowling effort secured a 93-run lead for the West Indies. They were also a man short, with wicketkeeper Probir Sen forced off the field due to injury on the first day. Allan Rae’s solid 97 was the cornerstone of the visitors’ second innings total of 267, with pacer Shute Banerjee taking 4/54.

India’s target was 361 in 395 minutes, and they decided to go for the win. They began the final day at a wobbly 90/3, having been 9/2 at one stage. Indian hopes were revived through a resolute fourth-wicket stand of 139 between Rusi Modi (86) and Vijay Hazare. Hazare put on another 55 with Vinoo Mankad for the fifth wicket and went on to compile a fine 122, before being sixth out at 285. The West Indies clawed back with two more wickets to set up an exciting denouement.

With Sen unlikely to bat, the pair of Phadkar and Ghulam Ahmed, who came together at 321/8, was effectively the last. They managed to bring it down to the last over, off which a steep 11 runs were needed. Much to the crowd’s disappointment, Phadkar could muster only five runs, leaving India at 355/8 and just six runs away from a historic series-levelling victory. Fast bowler Prior Jones, whose 5/85 included the key scalp of Hazare, was the standout bowler for the West Indies.

Fourth Test, Madras, 1978-79

This low-scoring dogfight at Chepauk produced the only result in a six-Test series. The West Indies, having to make do with an inexperienced team due to their cream playing World Series Cricket in Australia, crashed to 68/6 against the pace of Kapil Dev (4/38) before captain Alvin Kallicharan scored a gutsy 98. India eked out a lead of 27, served by Gundappa Viswanath’s knock of 124 that kept the pace duo of Sylvester Clarke (4/75) and Norbert Phillip (4/48) at bay.

The West Indies folded for 151 in their second attempt, with Larry Gomes (91) displaying a one-man act. The last eight wickets fell for 64, four of them to off-spinner Srinivas Venkataraghavan (4/43). Though India’s target was a modest 125, the West Indians made a match out of it, reducing the score to 17/3 and then to 84/6. To the hosts’ relief, Kapil (26*), who was battling fever, ensured a tense three-wicket win. Earlier, Viswanath top-scored again, this time with 31.

First Test, Delhi, 1987-88

The West Indies extended their unbeaten streak against India to 14 Tests with a record chase. India began woefully, getting shot out for 75, their lowest total in a home Test. Speedsters Patrick Patterson (5/24) and Winston Davis (3/20) did the bulk of the damage, and no batsman scored more than 20. The pitch was still conducive to pace when the West Indies batted, and Chetan Sharma (5/55) and Kapil (3/41) made the most of it by reducing the score to a dire 49/7.

It was only due to opener Desmond Haynes’ 45 that the West Indies gained a lead of 52. India’s second innings revolved around Dilip Vengsarkar’s 102, which lifted the total from 82/4 to 327. Courtney Walsh, overshadowed in the first innings, bowled with purpose to collect 5/54. An astonishing Indian turnaround looked likely when off-spinner Arshad Ayub (4/72), on debut, dented the top order to have the West Indies at 111/4 in pursuit of a challenging target of 276.

However, the imperious Vivian Richards smashed a rollicking 109* in just 111 balls, adding 92 with Gus Logie for the fifth wicket and 73* with Jeff Dujon for the sixth wicket on the way, to be the catalyst for a five-wicket win for the West Indies. This remained the highest successful Test chase in India until 2008-09, when India famously chased down 387 against England at Chennai.

First Test, Delhi, 2011-12

Shivnarine Chanderpaul continued his liking for Indian bowling with his 24th Test hundred after the West Indies won the toss. The left-hander struck 118 and shared in a fourth-wicket stand of 108 with opener Kraigg Brathwaite (63) to help recover the score from 72/3 towards a competitive 304. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha finished with 6/72. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag (55) gave India a blazing start, adding 89 for the first wicket at seven an over.

But the West Indies admirably fought back to take a 95-run lead, even as Rahul Dravid made 54. Debutant off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin then snared 6/47, limiting India’s target to 276. Sehwag (55) provided the platform again, and with ample time left, Dravid ensured that there was no batting meltdown this time with a composed 76. VVS Laxman took over after Dravid was third out at 162, scoring 58* to see India home by five wickets after lunch on the fourth day.

Third Test, Mumbai, 2011-12

The Windies were looking to salvage pride at the Wankhede stadium after defeats at Delhi and Kolkata had cost them the series. They began positively, piling up a humongous 590 after batting for over two days. Each of the top six crossed 60, with southpaw Darren Bravo (166) leading the way. Bravo added 164 for the third wicket with Kirk Edwards (86) and 160 for the fourth wicket with Kieran Powell (81). The last six wickets fell for 72 runs, mainly thanks to Ashwin (5/156).

India’s response was guided by the veteran duo of Dravid (82) and Sachin Tendulkar (94), but at 331/6, the West Indies held the advantage. Ashwin proceeded to star with the bat as well, scoring an attacking 103 from number eight to steer his team’s total to 482. The West Indies ended the fourth day at 81/2, ahead by 189 runs, and it seemed that the game would meander towards an insipid draw. However, Ojha and Ashwin proved how very unpredictable Test cricket could be.

The spin twins injected life into the Test by skittling the West Indies out for 134 before lunch on the final day. While Ashwin took 4/34 to give himself nine wickets in the game, Ojha returned a career-best 6/47. The last eight wickets had fallen for just 43, and suddenly, India had a bright chance to seal a whitewash. The hosts faced a gettable target of 243 from 64 overs, and at 101/1 in the 20th over, with Sehwag (60) in full flow, it looked like they were well on course to win.

Sehwag’s dismissal turned the tide, and soon after, Marlon Samuels’ off-spin got rid of Dravid and Tendulkar in quick succession to make the score 113/4. Virat Kohli anchored the chase thereafter, and as the overs went by, India’s position strengthened. The requirement was just 19 runs from the last five overs with four wickets in hand, when captain Darren Sammy caught Kohli (63) at short third man off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, thereby initiating another twist.

It all boiled down to the final over bowled by Fidel Edwards, off which India needed three runs with two wickets in hand. Varun Aaron played out three dot balls before taking a single to give Ashwin the strike. The fifth ball was a dot again. Ashwin hit the last ball to long-on, but was slow to turn around for the second run and was run out, leaving the Test drawn with scores level – the second such instance after the Bulawayo Test between Zimbabwe and England in 1996-97.

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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