Published in www.cricketnext.com
The one truly outstanding performance in the just concluded Test series between the world number one side, India, and the lowly ranked West Indians, was that of the tall and wiry Ishant Sharma. A haul of 22 wickets in a 3 match Test series is unheard of for an Indian pace bowler, but Ishant troubled the West Indians throughout the series to lead India to an easy win. The result could have been 3-0 instead of 1-0, such was India’s dominance, but they failed to put in that extra bit of effort, and the rain did play spoilsport at Barbados.
Ishant Sharma used his pace and ability to make the ball rear off a good length to trouble all opposition batters. He showed a great deal of improvement by keeping his line tight and not giving batsmen room to play forcing shots on the off side. In fact he showed signs of becoming a serious threat for India’s rivals in the coming years, for he has time on his side, and he has already matured into a thinking bowler. His main aim would be to maintain his fitness and to keep his pace up in the range of 140 kmph, for he is at his best when he is able to do that.
Several other players had their moments of glory in the series though none quaite matched the towering display by the young Delhi lad.
Rahul Dravid led India to victory at Sabina Park with batsmanship that was as gritty as any seen in recent times. The pitch was bouncy and difficult to bat on, but Dravid kept his concentration and his cool in the second innings to score a fighting century. He also played well at Barbados and in the 2nd innings at Dominica.
VVS Laxman was in typically elegant form every time he walked out to bat, except at Sabina Park. He made batting look ridiculously easy at times and notched up a string of half-centuries.
Harbhajan Singh, though not in his element on the pace-friendly pitches, provided key breakthroughs and scaled the 400 wicket peak that every international bowler dreams of attaining. He also figured in a match-turning partnership with Suresh Raina at Jamaica and once again displayed signs of maturing as a batsman.
Suresh Raina and Abhinav Mukund had their moments of success too, and skipper MS Dhoni came up with a combative 72 in the Dominica Test.
For the Windies, Darren Sammy led from the front with some tight seam bowling, but it was only Fidel Edwards who made the Indians hope about with some serious pace in the series. Ravi Rampaul and Devendra Bishoo shone early on, but faded away as the series progressed, through injury and bad form respectively.
Darren Bravo showed potential for the home team with some gutsy batting displays but Shivnaraine Chanderpaul’s wicket was still the toughest for the Indians to nab. Marlon Samuels remains an enigma and once again did not perform to his potential, despite an impressive knock at Barbados.
The coming series in England would see the return of Zaheer Khan as also Sreesanth, which would mean that Ishant would find himself in the company of India’s best pace bowlers and the English team could get a dose of their own medicine.
The return of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh would mean that India would be at full strength and they would need to be, for England has done extremely well in Tests of late. After a one-sided contest in the Carribean, a battle royale is on the cards as India takes on England on the latter’s home turf.