Windies 2019: Should India Take West Indies Series Win Seriously?

India's captain Virat Kohli leads his team off the filed after day four of the second Test cricket match against West Indies at Sabina Park cricket ground in Kingston, Jamaica Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. India won by 257 runs. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

The answer is a resounding Yes! Because professional sportspersons will tell you that every win is to be valued, irrespective of the opposition. More so because there could be a phase just around the corner when, despite their best efforts, the players could find it tough to notch up even a consolation win.

What better example of this than India’s current blue-eyed boy Jasprit Bumrah’s second innings spell? Having decimated the hosts in three of the four innings played, the fast bowler managed a single scalp for his efforts that saw deliveries whizzing past the edge without actually taking it.

Having said so, the Indian thinktank would be aware that a series where the opponents batted just 208 overs across four innings couldn’t be the real test of things to come in the Test championships. In fact, in none of the four West Indian innings did India have to ask for the new ball as the home side appeared to be in a tearing hurry to prove their incompetence.

One could argue that the win was comprehensive but skipper Virat Kohli did put it in perspective by reminding us that the West Indian bowlers did create trouble for his batsmen and it was thanks to the middle order this time that the team was saved the blushes. Both Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari came good at just the right time.

In fact, if anything the team should be a tad concerned over the form of KL Rahul, who seems hell-bent on disproving the theory that players require a long stint in order to make a case with their performances. The right-hander is scoring at a shade below 35 per innings in Tests and but for the unfortunate drug fiasco of Prithvi Shaw, would’ve long been banished.

The case of this Karnataka cricketer is dripping in irony, given that he came to the fore through his Test performances. In the rush to become a certainty in the white-ball formats, Rahul seems to have lost his mojo in the longer version of the game. That Rahul has a higher batting average in both ODIs and T20s than in Tests sums up his current predicament.

While India struggled with its middle order in the ODI format where a failure of the top-3 meant disaster, the Test middle order faces a problem of plenty with the likes of Rohit Sharma cooling his heels despite bossing the shorter formats like never before. Not to mention the batting talent of Hardik Pandya, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Amidst all these, a small matter that has once again escaped notice is the temperament issues that first choice wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant seems to be facing. The left-hander had two scores of twenties in the three innings he played, but on each of these occasions the casual manner in which he got out raised many eyebrows and many more hackles.

It is a known fact that skipper Kohli backs his players till they succeed, but the question needs to be asked: what did someone like Wriddhiman Saha do wrong, to be left out? Everyone swears by his keeping skills and Saha has played several invaluable innings in the lower middle order.

The same goes for Ashwin too. The thinktank appears to be confused about the role of India’s number one spinner in all formats of the game. Coach Ravi Shastri indicated that Jadeja was preferred over Ashwin because of his run-saving abilities on flat pitches. Does that mean Ashwin’s exploits in the Caribbean the last time round was on deadly turners?

In fact, the coach-captain combination has proffered conflicting suggestions to justify their team selection. Their experiment with wrist spinners in the World Cup fell flat and today both Chahal and Yadav find themselves in cold storage. The same goes for Jadeja, who spent time in the wilderness and is suddenly the toast of the season.

Let’s hope that both Kohli and Shastri keep the sterner tests in mind over the next two years and refrain from playing around too much with players’ roles in the team. Because while it doesn’t cost anything for coaches or captains to change their minds, for players these mood swings could result in extinction.