India's decision to settle for an easy draw rather than push for a win in the third Test against the West Indies may have surprised many but coach Duncan Fletcher said it was 'commonsense' to not go for runs on a difficult Windsor Park pitch.
Chasing 180 to win from 47 overs, India needed 84 runs from the final 15 mandatory overs but gave up the chase. "It wasn't difficult to get set but it was very difficult to score runs. How could we score 5-6 runs per over when scoring three runs an over on that pitch wasn't easy," said Fletcher at the post-match press conference. "We have seen through the match that unless and until the bowling was really bad, it wasn't easy to score.
You can't play square of the wicket and that's a huge advantage to the bowling side." Fletcher claimed his side decided to shut the shop after they saw Suresh Raina struggle on the pitch. "We sent Suresh up the order but even he found it very difficult. If a left-hander, against a leg-spin bowling is struggling, there was no point. It's difficult to score four runs an over in Test cricket. "If he had scored easily and hit a couple of fours, we would have gone for it. But both Vijay and Dravid said scoring runs in the middle wasn't easy. If batsmen who have batted for 22 overs and yet made only 40 runs are struggling, how could you chase five runs an over. It makes commonsense to me."
Fletcher said his team has made quite a statement by winning Twenty20, one-day and Test series even though they were below strength in the Caribbean. "When we took the plane from Mumbai, with the pessimism on the team, we got to be happy with the 3-0 result.
We won everything. We are not sitting back on these results, we would've loved to win one-dayers 4-1 and Tests 2-0 but after missing so many key players, it's quite a statement. "We never allowed the West Indies to get ahead of us. If weather had not caught us, we could have won in Barbados. We were probably half and hour away from winning that Test." The coach was made to reflect if his captain could have done anything different when the last four West Indian wickets were defying them on the fifth day.
"You adapt different tactics. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. The head of the coach and captain is always on the block. It's either right or wrong and nothing in between. Another day it could have worked. At least MS tried something instead of waiting for things to happen," he said. The Zimbabwe-born coach said the hot and humid conditions after rain interruptions on the first two days made it very difficult for both sides to go out and perform. "It was very hot, very humid. The two and half hour sessions were killers. From the word go, both sides showed a lot of character, especially in bowling."
Fletcher sympathized with Indian youngsters while counting the gains from the series. "Having been involved with legends such as Dravid and Laxman, it could only have done some good to them. It's more difficult for a young Indian cricketer than anyone else in the world since he gets such limited opportunity. "In that opportunity, he is expected to replace great players. It puts pressure. You can't stop them from putting pressure on themselves. It would affect them. Hopefully, they would have learnt the mental side of it and it would do them some good. "Ishant is the man of the series and really bowled well.
He bowled with a lot of promise. Munaf had to sit out on two Tests but it was a very slow wicket here. For PK it was a very slow wicket, it didn't swing. "It would have been nice if some other batsmen had got runs but most of them got runs at some stage or other and that's good." Fletcher was mightily impressed with the continued progress West Indian made in the series. "They bowled very well. Their batters slowly got better. It's not only on the field, the way they move off the field, their warm ups, I take note of it. They looked a very professional unit. "Under Ottis Gibson, the team is improving all the time.
I have been with England here, I have seen them in England but the way they put it together here, they are moving up. If that improvement continues, I wouldn't like to be part of another touring side and play them."