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Rain plays spoilsport

The one factor which cannot be manipulated took care of the first Test and ensured a draw. The fourth and fifth days were hit by rain and a lot of playing time was lost. India contributed to this by blatantly wasting time on the fourth day. And the visitors made it clear that they not going to make a charge for 323 in 52 overs. Caution has always been the watchword of the Indian team and this one is no different. After the South African debacle, the captain tends to be even more cautious than usual.

The gains for India were the emergence of one possible opener, Laxman, who played with a degree of assurance much beyond his years and experience. This was balanced by the act that the experienced opener, Sidhu, failed both times. The second Test is just three days away and Sidhu will have his chance to redeem his reputation; if he does not, then Jadeja may well get his chance. The rest of the batting, apart from the two senior men, Tendulkar and Azhar, held up well, with Joshi proving that he could wield the willow as well as some of his more illustrious colleagues.

On the bowling front, the picture is gloomy. Prasad looked weary even in the first innings. Kuruvilla is a good find and while he cannot be classed as an opening bowler, he will be more than adequate as a back-up for Prasad and Srinath in the future. It does not seem likely that Srinath will be able to rejoin the team for this tour despite the over-optimistic attitude of the board secretary Jagmohan Dalmiya, The arrival of Noel David (when will he reach the Caribbean?) is not going to be a great deal of help because he is no specialist off-spinner; the Indians have enough batsmen and need bowlers, not batsmen who have taken to bowling recently. David is this category. Why he was picked remains a mystery.

The hosts have their share of worries, despite having had the better of the exchanges. They are still searching for an opening pair and this Test did not yield any answers. They would have done better to stick with Robert Samuels; the return of Williams did nothing for his reputation. He got into the 20s both times and that was all. Campbell is one half of a future opening combine but one needs two to tango. Williams will be around for the next Test too and hopefully, after that, Samuels will get another go. The rest of the batting looks settled though Holder quite clearly has no place in the team. The selectors would do well to recall Adams for the second Test and boost the confidence of the man who scored so heavily against India during the 1994 series.

The West Indies bowling is a source of worry. Rose was merely steady. This judgement may be harsh; in the West Indies, any fast bowler is judged against the line-up that ruled in the glory days of the 70s and 80s. And theirs is a hard act to follow. Rose was quite composed for one playing his first Test. If he does not succumb to injury he could form part of the second string. Unfortunately, Kenny Benjamin will not be available for the second Test as well. This means the same four pacemen will play and Rawl Lewis will have to wait his turn.

But the main headache for the West Indies is their fielding. The hosts could have really had India on the rack on the third day if catches which went to hand had been taken. Ganguly was dropped behind the stumps when the visitors were struggling at 153 for five; he made 40-plus. Mongia was dropped by Walsh, a straightforward chance, and he went on to 78. Joshi was put down by Rose and he was instrumental in keeping the deficit down to 81. Had those catches been held, it may well have been a different story.

The hosts would also benefit if the groundsmen do prepare faster wickets for the remaining Tests. Sabina Park this time was a disappointment with the ball hardly coming on to the bat. So different in character was the pitch that the West Indies did something which they rarely do -- they batted first after winning the toss. Nowadays, every country prepares pitches to suit its team; the home advantage should not be frittered away.

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