David vs Goliath
The West Indies and India will lock horns Thursday at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in the first Test of a four-match series.
India enter the series as odds-on favourites to win, with a powerful, settled batting line-up and potent bowling attack led by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin at their disposal.
However, they have never been dominant forces in the Caribbean despite being victorious on their last trip to the region in 2011 where they won a three-Test series 1-0.
India have played 45 Tests against the West Indies in the Caribbean but have never won two Tests in one series since making their first visit in 1953, a series they lost 1-0.
Their most famous winning trip to the Caribbean was the 1971 five-match series which they won 1-0 and when the legend of opener Sunil Gavaskar was born.
Indian and West Indian cricketers – past and present – have been sharing their views on the two current teams and their prospects for the series.
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly on the Indian team and Indian batsmen.
“On paper India are a better side than the West Indies. India have toured New Zealand, England and Australia and they will get into good positions. They are a better balanced team. They have overseas experience.
“Lokesh Rahul is an outstanding batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara would be yearning to get some runs and make headlines because he has not been playing the other formats. Virat Kohli is the big guy. Ajinkya Rahane is one of the best in the team.
“There is huge talent in this Indian batting unit. These West Indies pitches are very similar to India. Rohit Sharma would probably want to improve his records as he hasn’t got much overseas.”
West Indies All-rounder Carlos Brathwaite on conditions and bowling to Indians.
“Bowling plans are important because India, undoubtedly, are one of the more strong batting line-ups in the world both home and away. Unfortunately or fortunately, conditions here aren’t too different from India now, but we have our plans for each batsman. It’s about executing the plans and keeping at it even if things don’t go our way.”
Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on bowling to the West Indies.
“I’m sure I’ll have to be as boring as possible in terms of trying to plug away all day long.”
Indian batsman Ajinkya Rahane emphasises how key patience will be to succeeding.
“Patience will be the key as a batting unit. But once you get set it is important to [make] each and every session [count] because we will have to give time for our bowlers. It is not easy to take 20 wickets on this kind of pitches, especially on the slower tracks. As a batting unit, we will have to take responsibility and I think one or two batsmen will have to get set and score big here.”
West Indies opening batsman and vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite also preached on patience during the series.
“I think the main thing with these pitches in the Caribbean is patience and I think once we carry that both facing their pacers and spinners we will make some big targets. You know it’s important for that first innings total. As the opener, I just want to build that foundation for the batsmen to come. That is my main focus. Once I can do that I can put the guys in the middle a little more comfortable so we can get big totals.”
West Indies coach Phil Simmons on the significance of the series.
“Every series is significant. I think it’s a case where we want to continue winning. We won the last Test match we played in the Caribbean against England and then we had a couple of matches against Australia where we didn’t do well. So now, we just want to try and build on what we have been trying to do in Australia and the last two Tests there were not as bad. So we’re looking to build on that.”
Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma on bowling in tough conditions.
“You have to work hard enough even if conditions are not favourable. It is easy to give up and say there’s nothing in the wicket so spinners will do the job and we [fast bowlers] will only try to hit the areas. But you should back yourself and go flat out. I like to go flat out whether it is my second or third spell. If I am playing I give my 100 per cent. That makes me a different bowler.
“The conditions are very challenging. It’s pretty hot out there, so you need to look after yourself properly. And obviously the time difference, it’s totally a different time zone and you need to be mindful of that as well, especially when you are playing four Test matches.”
India batting coach Sanjay Bangar on preparations for the Test series.
“It is the first time that we had such a long period of preparation for a Test series. So we have tried to make the best use of it. We have prepared for whatever different conditions we could encounter, what should be our response and how to execute it. The time that we have had has been very useful in terms of team bonding as well as preparation. All the players are looking in good touch.”
India coach Anil Kumble on what he expects from his bowlers.
“In the bowling department, we will be focusing on consistent lengths and being boring. That’s what we need to do when playing Test cricket.”
West Indies icon Sir Vivian Richards on what the pitch at the ground bearing his name is likely to be tomorrow.
“I was speaking to the groundsman recently and he told me that he is looking to make some changes, where he is hoping to have some more bounce on the track itself. Hoping that he could have this sort of a wicket that produces the pace and bounce that I think, maybe, would be of help. And not just maybe, to the bowlers but also to batters.”
West Indies captain Jason Holder’s take on the big names in the Indian team’s line-up.
“I just think we want to play cricket as it is and not play names. We stand a much better chance taking the psychological part of it out of it.”