When Debutants had a blast

Honouring the master...the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, felicitates Sachin Tendulkar at the end of the first Test between India and West Indies at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. This was Tendulkar's 199th Test. He is set to retire after his 200th Test in Mumbai.-K.R. DEEPAK

The Test, Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th, failed to live up to the expectations and did dampen the celebration plans of the Cricket Association of Bengal, which rued the fact that West Indies certainly was not the best team to be part of Tendulkar’s farewell series. By Vijay Lokapally.

It was a complete mismatch as India won the first Test against the West Indies by an innings. “Rubbish cricket and rubbish team,” an elderly cricket fan said in anger at the Eden Gardens Club House gallery. He had prayed for a decent performance by the visiting team in its second innings in order to watch Sachin Tendulkar one last time on the field. But the West Indians came up with such mediocre show that they lost many friends among the cricket lovers in the City of Joy.

India found in Rohit Sharma a batsman to revel and in Mohammad Shami a bowler to invest in.

A century by R. Ashwin highlighted the off-spinner’s batting abilities, but it was Shami who stood out with his skilful bowling that boosted India’s hopes of discovering an incisive bowler. His haul of nine wickets in the match was the best Test debut by an Indian fast bowler.

Against an opposition that just refused to improve, Shami excelled with his swing, both normal and the reverse. His spells made a huge impact because the batsmen had no clue. Shami, as some former players observed, had this enviable quality to reverse the ball but his length was the clinching factor since it gave the batsmen little room to read and adjust.

“He was fantastic with the line he bowled. All the fast bowlers got the ball to reverse but he had the right line and length,” said skipper M. S. Dhoni in praise of Shami.

Shami, who hails from Uttar Pradesh but found his cricket moorings in Kolkata, said, “The biggest thing for me was to play with Sachin Tendulkar. I am also indebted to my family. They backed me and allowed me to shift to Kolkata because there was no cricket infrastructure in the place I come from. I dedicate this to Sachin and my family.”

It was a forgettable contest. When batsmen play expansive strokes in the first session of a Test it does send disturbing signals. The manner of dismissals gave the impression that the West Indians were hardly concerned about the dent it would cause to their reputation.

Skipper Darren Sammy acknowledged the lack of discipline in the West Indies ranks. “We are a much better team than how we played. Credit must go to India the way (they) used the old ball, especially the debutant (Mohammad Shami). He got the ball to reverse quite well and our batsmen were not patient enough, starting with me and from the top. I remember, pre-match I said hopefully the Indian batsmen will play a lot of shots but it seems like our batsmen were the ones playing loose shots,” he said.

The West Indians not only played loose shots, but just refused to learn from their mistakes. Their second innings debacle was one of the worst batting performances one would get to see. The occasion demanded the West Indians to raise their game but their indifference showed the team in poor light. What a disgraceful show from a team that had a great legacy to look back at, when players like Garry Sobers, Wesley Hall, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Brian Lara, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall to name a few sent shivers down the opponents’ spine. This West Indies team was a letdown.

India had a lot to cheer about. The arrival of Rohit on the big stage with a huge bang was a pleasant development. Even as the transition process continues, Rohit cementing his place in the middle-order was such a relief to the team management, the captain in particular, for he had backed this Mumbai batsman a lot.

Dream start... India's Rohit Sharma celebrates his century on debut against West Indies at the Eden Gardens.-K.R. DEEPAK

Rohit was realistic in his approach. Following his fabulous one-day performance against Australia recently, the stroke-player came up with a matured display. He was aware of the hardships that left him dejected in his efforts to seek a place in the Indian Test team. Rohit’s Test debut was delayed, but it certainly helped him since he was in a better frame of mind to make the most of the chance.

“I knew my chance would come. It was just a matter of staying there and waiting for the loose balls. I had to be patient and back myself. And that’s what I did,” said Rohit, who had made his first-class debut against Bengal at the very same ground.

Ashwin’s second Test century confirmed his batting potential. Having started his career as a batsman during schooldays, the Tamil Nadu all-rounder set up India’s victory in the company of Rohit, as they added 280 runs for the seventh wicket. It was the most crucial phase of the match that exposed the weakness of the West Indian bowling.

The only consolation for West Indies was the six-wicket haul by off-spinner Shane Shillingford. He had his moment when he snared Tendulkar with a doosra. The leg-before decision, however, was debatable. For Shillingford, it did not matter. “I had my most prized wicket,” he said.

The Test, Tendulkar’s 199th, failed to live up to the expectations and did dampen the celebration plans of the Cricket Association of Bengal, which rued the fact that West Indies certainly was not the best team to be part of Tendulkar’s farewell series.

THE SCORES

First Test: India v West Indies, Eden Gardens, Kolkata, November 6-8, 2013.

Result: India won by an innings and 51 runs.

West Indies —1st innings: C. H. Gayle c Vijay b B. Kumar 18, K. O. A. Powell c B. Kumar b Shami 28, D. M. Bravo run out 23, M. N. Samuels b Shami 65, S. Chanderpaul b Ashwin 36, D. Ramdin b Shami 4, D. J. G. Sammy c B. Kumar b Ojha 16, S. Shillingford lbw b Tendulkar 5, V. Permaul c & b Ashwin 14, T. L. Best (not out ) 14, S. S. Cottrell b Shami 0, Extras (b-4, lb-7) 11. Total: 234.

Fall of wickets: 1-34, 2-47, 3-138, 4-138, 5-143, 6-172, 7-192, 8-211, 9-233.

India bowling: B. Kumar 14-6-33-1, Shami 17-2-71-4, Ashwin 21-9-52-2, Ojha 24-6-62-1, Tendulkar 2-1-5-1.

India — 1st innings: S. Dhawan b Shillingford 23, M. Vijay st. Ramdin b Shillingford 26, C. A. Pujara c Ramdin b Cottrell 17, S. R. Tendulkar lbw b Shillingford 10, V. Kohli c Powell b Shillingford 3, R. G. Sharma lbw b Permaul 177, M. S. Dhoni c Ramdin b Best 42, R. Ashwin b Shillingford 124, B. Kumar c Gayle b Shillingford 12, M. Shami st Ramdin b Permaul 1, P. P. Ojha (not out) 2, Extras (b-4, lb-8, w-1, nb-3) 16. Total: 453.

Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-57, 3-79, 4-82, 5-83, 6-156, 7-436, 8-444, 9-451.

West Indies bowling: Best 17-0-71-1, Cottrell 18-3-72-1, Shillingford 55-9-167-6, V. Permaul 23.4-2-67-2, Sammy 12-1-52-0, Samuels 4-0-12-0.

West Indies — 2nd innings: C. H. Gayle c Kohli b B. Kumar 33, K. O. A. Powell lbw b Ashwin 36, D. M. Bravo c Sharma b Ashwin 37, M. N. Samuels lbw b Shami 4, S. Chanderpaul (not out ) 31, D. Ramdin c Vijay b Shami 1, D. J. G. Sammy b Shami 8, S. Shillingford b Shami 0, V. Permaul run out 0, T.L. Best c Ojha b Ashwin 3, S. S. Cottrell b Shami 5, Extras (lb-10) 10. Total: 168.

Fall of wickets: 1-33, 2-101, 3-110, 4-120, 5-125, 6-152, 7-152, 8-152, 9-159.

India bowling: B. Kumar 6-1-20-1, Shami 13.1-0-47-5, Ashwin 19-2-46-3, Ojha 13-3-27-0, Tendulkar 3-0-18-0.