No conches from the Caribbean

On a pitch that was drier than had been expected, Ravindra Jadeja stifled the West Indian batsmen with his tight left-arm spin. It ensured that India had to pursue no more than a below-par 234, something that was accomplished in a tearing hurry. Shreedutta Chidananda reports.

There was a time when The Oval was a corner of the West Indies in England. Gradually though, the conch-blowing multitudes in the stands, from nearby Brixton and around, have all but disappeared. When India played the West Indies in their Group ‘B’ game at the ground, there were few supporters from the Caribbean around. It was just as well for their team received a thorough hiding at the hands of a rampant India.

On a pitch that was drier than had been expected, Ravindra Jadeja stifled the West Indian batsmen with his tight left-arm spin. It ensured that India had to pursue no more than a below-par 234, something that was accomplished in a tearing hurry.

Shikhar Dhawan slammed a second successive ODI hundred while Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik scored fifties as India sailed home inside 40 overs.

For the West Indies, it was a case of the same old problem surfacing again, its brittle middle order folding disappointingly cheaply.

The young Johnson Charles, who struck a bold half-century, will remain one of the bright spots. After Chris Gayle fell cheaply, Charles played his shots with gusto and adventure. But from the comfort of 103 for one, the West Indies lost eight for 79. It was only Darren Sammy’s wild assault at the end that brought the total some measure of acceptability.

“We got off to a good start but we lost our way in the middle,” the West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo admitted afterwards. “That has been a concern for us not just here but in previous games as well. We played bad shots at the wrong time and allowed India to dominate. The batters had to take more responsibility.”

Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul failed to dent India with Sunil Narine the only bowler to cause any sort of problem. The total, although meagre, could have been defended, he felt. “We bowled a bit too wide. The balls weren’t doing as much as in the previous game, so we did not adapt to the surface quickly enough and allowed the Indian batters to get off to a flying start.”

M. S. Dhoni, meanwhile, will take great delight in Jadeja’s continued success. The Saurashtra player contributes in all areas and has now turned into the skipper’s go-to man.

It was Jadeja’s sequence of three wickets in 14 balls, accounting for Charles, Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan that crippled the West Indies. He called it one of his best performances later, revealing that he’d bowled slower to adapt to the pitch. “I played against England here in 2009 and the wicket was the same; so I’m not surprised,” he said.

Dhawan, who was put down twice, made the most of his chances to score yet another hundred. His run of form is now looking like over-compensation for all the years he may feel he’s lost. Dhawan is building a steady understanding at the top of the order with Rohit, who quietly helped himself to another half-century. The opening position appears to have worked out well for the Mumbai batsman, who was striking the ball well till his dismissal by Narine.

Karthik proved his scores in the warm-up games were no fluke, making a steady fifty. If there is any concern for India, it has to be the ineffectiveness of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma, both of whom have been unimpressive in the first two games. Against better teams, it will be harder to paper over these cracks.

The DRS again threw up controversy, but through no fault of its own. The game saw three decisions overturned on review, one of which led to Samuels’s dismissal by Jadeja. Although replays showed that the ball had struck pad first and that the batsman was out leg-before, the decision was a marginal one. Bravo did not seem highly enthused by it.

“I’m not a big fan of the DRS,” he said. “The Marlon Samuels decision could have gone either way — it was a turning point for us.” But the captain, to his credit, did not make any excuses. “We deserved to be on the losing side,” he said.

THE SCORES

India v West Indies, Kennington Oval, London, June 11, 2013.

West Indies: C. Gayle c Ashwin b Kumar 21; J. Charles lbw b Jadeja 60; D. M. Bravo st. Dhoni b Ashwin 35; M. Samuels lbw b Jadeja 1; R. Sarwan c Dhoni b Jadeja 1; D. J. Bravo c Jadeja b Yadav 25; K. Pollard c Kumar b Ishant 22; D. Sammy (not out) 56; S. Narine c Karthik b Jadeja 2; R. Rampaul b Jadeja 2; K. Roach (not out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-2, w-2) 8. Total (for nine wkts., in 50 overs) 233.

Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-103, 3-105, 4-109, 5-140, 6-163, 7-171, 8-179, 9-182.

India bowling: B. Kumar 8-0-32-1; Yadav 9-0-54-1; Ishant 10-1-43-1; Ashwin 9-2-36-1; Kohli 4-0-26-0; Jadeja 10-2-36-5.

India: R. Sharma c Charles b Narine 52; S. Dhawan (not out) 102; V. Kohli b Narine 22; D. Karthik (not out) 51; Extras (b-4, w-5) 9. Total (for two wkts., in 39.1 overs) 236.

Fall of wickets: 1-101, 2-127.

West Indies bowling: Roach 6-0-47-0; Rampaul 6-0-28-0; Narine 10-0-49-2; Sammy 4-0-23-0; D. J. Bravo 5-0-36-0; Samuels 4-0-17-0; Gayle 1-0-11-0; Pollard 3.1-0-21-0.