Ottis Gibson the West Indies coach, was expecting to spend Sunday watching his team fight in front of a full house at Eden Gardens, as the first Test went into the fifth day. Instead, he was overlooking a three-hour training session under a harsh sun at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The innings-and-51-run defeat in Kolkata was West Indies’ first inside three days during Gibson’s tenure. He was unimpressed.
“There is only so much talking any coach can do,” Gibson said, after his batsmen had wasted starts in both innings of the first Test. “When you play five batsmen, and you sit down and stress the importance of those five batsmen, and you set yourself a challenge of batting a day and a half in the first innings, it is then up to those five batsmen to negotiate whatever the opposition bowlers throw at them and hang around for five days.
“(But) When you have a run-out and a couple of soft dismissals within those five batsmen then it puts pressure on everybody else. That is exactly what happened. We have to get better. We have to learn those mistakes and try not to repeat them.”
Marlon Samuels scored the only half-century for West Indies in the first Test. He was also the only batsman with a valid reason for his dismissals. In the first innings, Samuels was bowled by Mohammad Shami after the ball was changed and suddenly began to reverse swing. In the second, he was hit on the pad by another reverse-swinging delivery from Shami and was given lbw by umpire Nigel Llong, though the ball appeared to be going down leg side. The other batsmen had no such excuses.
The top-order batsmen Kieran Powell, Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo paid for playing loose shots. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was ineffective in the absence of stable partners. As for Denesh Ramdin, did he even turn up in Kolkata?
“Try and bat three days,” Gibson responded, when asked how the West Indies batting could improve. “We won the toss in good batting conditions and we batted 70-odd overs. That is just not good enough. We know in India you have to bat long, put runs on the board, 400 minimum in the first innings really. So the 234 that we made was pretty average.
“We were little bit rusty coming in but we are not going to use that as an excuse. We still had our opportunities to make scores – we had six or seven guys who got starts and did not carry on. Only one guy got a half-century. When India batted only one or two of those guys got starts and made hundreds. And that was the difference.”
According to Gibson, the five-batsman strategy is a recent one and it has worked for West Indies. Its success, however, depended on every player sticking to the plan, Gibson said. “When you look at the result you sort of want to think that way (whether the five-batsmen plan works). That line-up is the one with which we have played the last three or four Test matches. We backed those guys and they did not perform as well as they did in the past. It is a two-match series so we have to look at the combination to make sure we still believe strongly that we can win here.”