By: Devashish Fuloria (ESPNcricinfo)
West Indies’ first day of cricket in India was characterised by the batting problems they often encounter when they don the team maroons. The dual approach of blast out and block out was on show again, which meant there were repeated periods of lull during the innings that allowed the bowlers to dictate. India A’s bowling attack, non-threatening but disciplined, did not have to do anything special as West Indians collapsed to 148 all out within 40 overs. It may be the sign of things to come in the series.
The batting performance was being keenly followed in the pavilion by the former West Indies captain and now the chief selector Clive Lloyd and Richard Pybus, the director of cricket. For Lloyd, who had scored 160 runs on his debut Test in 1966, also at Brabourne, it would have been a reminder of the state of affairs.
Lendl Simmons was joined by Leon Johnson to open the innings as West Indians chose to bat, but neither looked comfortable against the discipline of Dhawal Kulkarni or against the pace of Jasprit Bumrah. Johnson was the first to depart, outside-edging an angled delivery from Bumrah to second slip in the fourth over. Three overs later, there was more bad news as Simmons trudged off the field with a troublesome back.
Darren Bravo had stroked a couple of boundaries but his eagerness to score cost him his wicket. He pushed at a Kulkarni delivery, bowled round the wicket, away from his body only to see his stumps splayed as the ball took an inside edge.
Denesh Ramdin, the Test captain, then gave brief support to Marlon Samuels in a fourth-wicket association worth 32 runs. Samuels forced the scoring with powerful shots through off and down the ground, but even then, a big chunk of runs – 21 out of the first 50 – came through extras. Just when the two batsmen appeared to have weathered the initial nerves, Ramdin’s slash at a Stuart Binny delivery was snaffled by a diving Unmukt Chand at second slip.
At 70 for 4 in the 17th over, West Indies had plenty of time to build and if a recovery was to come, Samuels, Kieron Pollard, the captain for the game, and Darren Sammy would have been central to it. However, the innings floundered as legspinner Amit Mishra bamboozled Pollard and Sammy with googlies in successive overs to reduce the tourists to 76 for 6.
That West Indians were spared some embarrassment was due to positive strokeplay from Samuels. Anything full, and he was prepared to drill it down the ground. He reached his half-century off 53 deliveries and his innings included nine boundaries, two more than the rest of the batsmen combined. Karn Sharma was driven down the ground twice for fours in his first over but he eventually ended Samuels’ stay, trapping the batsman in front.
The rest chose the path of least resistance, crumbling against the spinners to be bowled out in the 39th over. Take out the 28 extras and Samuels’ 56 and the contribution of the remaining 10 men was just 64 on a pitch without any alarming turn. The ball did kick from the surface, like it does on all fresh Mumbai pitches, which makes them enjoyable to bat on.
The India A batsmen made the most of it. M Vijay and Chand added 71 comfortable runs for the first wicket before Vijay drove Kemar Roach straight to cover. Chand continued to progress without any trouble and reached his half-century off 60 deliveries.
“They were quick and one doesn’t get to play 6’6″ bowler like Jason Holder in India, so you have to make adjustments,” Chand said. “I made plans to not go after balls fizzing outside off, or moving away and tried to play only at balls on which I had full control.
“One needs to have the right mindset. Initially, I did not go for the hooks and pulls and only when I was settled, I played those shots.”
As the target drew near, he opened up and smashed Samuels for consecutive sixes over wide long-on. In company of Karun Nair, he helped India A reach the target in the 26th over.