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Windies take the series

Rain ensured that the last two Tests would be reduced to batting practice but the West Indies have come away from the Test series against India with more gains to show than their opponents. If India did not gain much from the series, they have themselves to blame; they had their chances, indeed more of them than the Windies did, but blew every one by failing to seize them.

When the series began, much was made of the aging bowling combination which would spearhead the Windies attack; at the end of the series, there is one big gain in the shape of Franklyn Rose who ended the series with 18 wickets. Mervyn Dillon showed some promise too and Bishop bowled much better in the series than he has done for a long time. True, the fast bowling problem is not solved; when Walsh and Ambrose go, there will be a big vacuum, but at least some headway has been made towards finding pacemen to carry on.

On the batting front, Chanderpaul overcame a mental block in the third Test and that was the biggest gain for the team. He ended the series with over 400 runs, in the process proving that he could plug the gap at number three extremely competently. All the shuffling up and down the order has not affected him at all and it would not be too far-fetched to predict that in this slim left-hander, one is looking at a likely future West Indies captain. And talking of captains, the way Lara handled the team in his maiden effort as skipper gave much cause for cheer. He ensured that it would be a memorable debut.

One problem which the West Indies had before the series still remains; indeed, this has been a headache since 1991. Williams and Campbell proved anything but a reliable opening pair with the latter being the more unreliable of the two this time. Williams's confidence must have been bolstered by his maiden hundred in the second Test but he has still not proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he is 100 percent Test material. The same goes for Holder who was lucky to get a place; two half-centuries helped him stay in the team and he will probably remain for some time until Adams comes into his own again.

Wicket-keeping was the other major headache which still remains. Neither Murray nor Browne has anything of the class of a Dujon or a Hendriks and some observers have pointed out that it might be worthwhile playing Adams as the keeper as his batting is a plus point. This game of musical chairs with Murray and Browne should end as it is doing neither any good. It is time the West Indies looked for a keeper beyond these two, even if it means blooding raw talent.

For India, as in South Africa, it was a case of often looking the gift horse in the mouth. They had their chances but did not grab them; there was timid batting, hesitant captaincy and the whole team crumbled during the one innings when they had to apply themselves and bat to reach a small target. Tendulkar must take a lesson from the way the West Indies went about it in Barbados; Lara revealed later that the night before that victory, Ambrose convinced the entire team that it was possible to bowl out India for less that the 120 they were chasing. Hearing the main strike bowler speak in this manner energised the team, according to Lara. What happened the next day is only too well-known. India lacked any such motivation.

Azharuddin was a major failure this time; his attitude was questionable as well. There are signs that he is unwilling to play according to the needs of the team. He seems intent on blasting every ball to kingdom come and appears to be taking his place in the team for granted. The team management apparently was unwilling to take the opportunity to send him a signal by dropping him for the final Test and keeping Ganguly instead. This was another opportunity wasted.

No doubt the absence of Srinath made some difference but due to this, India realised at last that there was somebody named Kuruvilla who can be a worthy back-up to Prasad and Srinath. He bowled within his limitations but did enough to raise the question -- why was he picked only now? He has been around for a long time but somehow some factor prevented his inclusion. Of many others who were part of the Indian party, little was seen; some may surface in the one-dayers. It remains to be seen what India will utilise Laxman for in future Tests; Sidhu has done enough to keep his spot.

The other gain was the steady Dravid. India has not had a number three like him for a long time. He is wise beyond his years and only needs a couple more years to mature into a batsman who can rub shoulders with anyone at the top. His technique is right out of the top drawer and he has the ability to stay cool for long periods of time. Here is another one with potential to lead the team.