The last couple of hours was probably Jasprit Bumrah’s tribute to everything excellent about Test cricket and the way he dictated the course of the game was just magnificent. While Windies gifted 60 Championship points to India, without a fight, Shai Hope’s form brought a lot of questions too.
Can Antigua learn from Leeds?
It is just ironic when Virat Kohli and the entire Indian team stood up to applaud for Hanuma Vihari when Ben Stokes was orchestrating one of the greatest Test run-chases ever. Throw away the convenient vantage point, the contrast between both the Tests don’t even need to be judged. It is as clear as daylight. While Leeds was a spectacle for more reasons than one - for the context of it and what had happened there - the Antigua Test was pale in comparison. If by any means, both the teams manage to catch up with the highlights of the game, the clear contrast would be understandable. However, blaming the teams solely would be like blaming Katrina Kaif and sparing Salman Khan for the failure of Bharat.
At a time Test cricket has failed to garner any audience outside England and Australia - Windies went back to their model of 2016 and dished out a boring wicket for the first Test. The flattened out condition, even on the fourth day, was the last thing a Test match wanted as the teams were playing to blunt out deliveries, which even forced Virat Kohli to sledge, “Why don't you move the game along? You are playing at home. Not in India.”
However, the condition could be easily attributed to what happened in February against England. The stadium received one demerit point after being deemed to be "below average" by ICC and that must have propelled the Windies curators to go defensive. Nothing else stands with the logic as India have better players in all three departments, and a flat deck was not going to help Windies’ cause in any way too. Therein lies a lesson for the curators to prepare a better deck for the Test matches, and at the same time, the teams need to move away from the cocoon to make the game more interesting.
Bumrah and the ability to stay within the line
Much of Jasprit Bumrah’s success was based on the simple formula of exploiting his terrific speed by bowling in an aggressive manner on a full-length. By pushing his length right up, he targets the stumps and as a result, he gets benefited from his pace and movement. While length is something that comes naturally to him, he at times loses control over his line which was shown in the first innings of this Test.
However, what he pulled off today was nothing less than extraordinary against a batting line up that had more mental battle to do than attrition in Test cricket against the very best. When India took the new ball, Bumrah was on point when it came to controlling the swing and dictating the course of the game. There too, with India having an off-side dominated field and in all honesty, Windies batsmen seeming all over the place in their defense, Bumrah just had a day to remember at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground in Antigua.
Understanding the wicket didn’t have anything for him, he focused on bringing his ODI modus operandi to the fore and when he unleashed those inswingers to the right-handers, it became so difficult for the batsman to know whether to play or leave and with the game progressed he increased the number of incoming deliveries, forcing the batsmen to throw bat around. 15/5 happened soon enough and Windies just gifted 60 Championship points to India.
Shai Hope - excellent in ODIs but does he fit into the Test team?
Shai Hope is probably the most complete ODI batsman in the Windies side and the way he constructs an innings is quite anti-Caribbean as well - a throwback to the 90s cricket but his average of 48 runs is often thrown into the discussion. Another problem that has encrypted into Hope’s repertoire is inconsistency which, along with killing his instinct in ODIs, is sending wrong vibes in the Test format as well.
After he had one hell of a year in 2017, where his twin centuries at Headingley brought a historic win for the Windies, Hope has been ordinary in red-ball cricket, with only two fifty-plus scores to his name in the last two years. After Windies decided to leave out Shane Dowrich, he has moved down the order and while that, in theory, should have helped the cause because of his affinity to score freely against the spinners, he has failed spectacularly.
Kraigg Brathwaite is now a veteran of 57 Tests, Shamarh Brooks has played 73 first-class matches, but Windies still bank on him to spearhead the middle-order. However, pretty much like Rahane - of course, ahead of the series - he has failed to take the encumbrance on his shoulder and that, in turn, has made him a waste in simple terms.
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