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Just a matter of 4 wickets and 2 runs!

Windies tour: India would have been walking proudly...

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 17:35 IST

What a thrilling tour it is turning out to be!

Bravo's Bravado in ODIs, delayed declaration at Antigua, and Weather gods and demi-god Lara at St Lucia  - all have contrived to deny India a decisive say in both the series.

India could well have been up  2-0 in the ODIs as well as Tests, but the momentum suddenly turned the West Indies way in the limited overs, and may have swung their way again.

Broadly, three things turned out to be the difference between India and the West Indies in the last two tests, especially the present one.

Lara, Kya hai Mara!

West Indies skipper Lara had been a disappointment by his standards on the current tour.

If just 159 runs in five ODIs were not enough, the larger than life skipper went on to register three more dismal knocks of 18 and 0 at Antigua, and 7 in the first innings at Lt Lucia.

After such lackluster performances, and considering that Lara had traditionally been a disappointment in the fourth innings of a match  (at St Lucia the third innings was virtually the final innings of the match), the West Indies captain was not expected to hold for long. 

Lara's average performances before St Lucia

 

 Matches

 Runs

 Avg

 Lara's 4th inn. average vs India  5 (1*) 5012.50
 Lara's 4th inn. average overall 50 (11*)138035.38

However, the genius surfaced just when he was most required. A patient 120 were enough to take the match out of India's grasp. But just brilliance cannot explain the thought that went into Lara's tremendous match saving effort. 

The knockout punch that Lara delivered to the Indian hopes came from the way he tackled Indian spinners and seamers.

Against spinners, Lara was quick to stretch far on the front foot to rule out any realistic change of leg before, and for pacers he stood a good one and a half to two feet outside the crease. All this to effectively tackle their good length deliveries on a pitch getting progressively low.

Lara's footwork in West Indies second innings

 

 Total balls

 Played on front foot 

 Spinners 

165

114

 Pacemen

142

79

In all, Lara played 69 per cent of deliveries from spinners and 56 per cent from Pacers from the Front foot.

Fourth wicket Partnership

India's key to success was always going to be getting the first five partnership quickly as the West Indies' last five partnerships had not done wonderfully well in the past.

The staying power of the host's last five wickets in their home defeats shows that their tail lasts less than a session. Certainly not good enough when they are playing for time.

Staying power of WI's last 5 wickets
(In last 5 home defeats, in the final innings of the match) 

 Opposition Venue Season Last 5 wkts
 Pakistan Kingston 2005 19.1 overs
 South Africa Bridgetown 2004-05 29.3 overs
AustraliaPort-of-Spain 2002-03 18.2 overs
New ZealandBridgetown200216.3 overs
 India Port-of-Spain2001-0226.0 overs

However, the fourth wicket partnership and the ability of Chanderpaul to spend long hours on the crease changed all that.

Decisive Fourth Wicket Partnership for Windies

 Venue

Overs played in final innings 

Overs consumed by 4th wicket

 % 

St Lucia 119 43.4  36.5
 Antigua 95 29.2 30.7

In fact, 1/3 of all the overs bowled by India in the final innings of both the matches were consumed by this partnership, which eventually spelled the difference between a 2-0 lead for India or a 0-0 lifeline for the West Indies.

Should India go with five bowlers?

India must give this issue a serious thought.  On form, the visitors are basically playing with four batsmen and a keeper. Despite a glorious history of brilliant performances,  Laxman and Yuvraj have disappointed with the bat so far in this series, averaging in 20s. 

Yuvraj and Laxman in the current Test Series

 Player Innings Runs Avg 50s
 Yuvraj 3 64 21.33 0
 Laxman 3 60 20.00 0

It won't be a bad idea to play another bowler to further pressurize the West Indies. Resting either Yuvraj or VVS for the next match may not be fair to either of them, but the team composition so far has not been fair to the bowler of the caliber of Harbhajan either. Everything eventually boils down to the tactical planning.

If Team India opt for five batsmen instead of six, they could, as a bonus,  end up playing three spinners in Kumble, Harbhajan and Sehwag, and three seamers in Munaf, Irfan and Sreesanth or VRV.  After all, Sehwag has threatened to become a serious off spinner after his exploits in the first two tests.

Mercifully, India will have about  a week to recover from the shock of the unexpected draw at St Lucia, all  thanks to bad weather and inspirational knocks from the West Indies captain Lara and an ex-captain Chanderpaul.

They will do well to utilize this time to explore additional bowling options to keep up their dominance of the Test series. A dominance, which has failed to throw up a decisive advantage so far.