BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Darren Sammy made it clear that there was only one way for West Indies to win the second Test against India, starting today at Kensington Oval, and level the three-Test series.
The West Indies captain said his side would have to bat their way out of the trouble, following their 63-run defeat inside four days in the first Test that ended last Thursday at Sabina Park in Jamaica.
“We need to bat properly,” he said. “We cannot fault the bowlers for bowling India out twice for under 260.
“The thing we did wrong [in the first Test] was not put runs on the boards. For us to win, our batsmen need to come to the party.”
To help Sammy and his side accomplish this, West Indies have turned to a familiar source for inspiration, and for the players to work through the mental meltdowns that have eroded their confidence, particularly the batting.
World-famous sports psychologist Rudi Webster was contracted for the duration of the Test, and Sammy hoped that his influence could help spark a revival of self-belief among the players.
“He is just here trying to help restore the confidence of the players, mainly our batsmen, and the guys will have to open their minds to take in what he is bringing to the table,” he said.
“Hopefully, we will see the batsmen playing a lot more confidently. We have to start somewhere.
He said: “Throughout the past few series, apart from the first Test in Sri Lanka last November, our batsmen have been struggling for a little bit.
“We know the coaches and the management staff are doing all that they can in order to give us the best chance of going out there and performing. Webster’s inclusion can hopefully work out for the best.”
Sammy also took personal responsibility for his own failures with the bat, which has not helped to engender a level of confidence in his side.
He gave a hint that he may be emerging from his cocoon, bringing the Kingston crowd alive with 25 in the second innings in the first Test, striking three towering sixes in succession of Harbhajan Singh.
“I have to bat as well, and for me, personally, it’s about going out there and doing whatever it takes for the team to win and be in a good position,” he said.
“From that side, I want to put runs on the board as captain, and continue with my other role of being the workhorse, or stock bowler, but still pick up wickets.
“I have to contribute with the bat. It has been affecting me and the team not being able to put the scores that I want on the board.”
In the first Test, West Indies seemed to have India on the ropes at two critical junctures. The visitors had slumped to 85 for six in the first innings, but still reached 246, and in the second innings, they were 183 for eight, and recovered to make 252, leaving West Indies to chase 325.
Sammy felt another area with which Webster could help the side was to maintain their mental fortitude when they have their opponents on the run. “The opposition, the pressure, and the situation of the game, we probably do not handle it as we should,” he said. “We have been batting well, and we are in good positions in recent matches, but then collapse. It has been something that has affected us.
“So it is about when we are in that situation, rising above the pressure, and that has been a mental failure, and a confidence thing.
“I would love us to play consistent cricket. Meaning, once we create the opportunities to be on top, we stay on top.
“Maybe we get too relaxed, or maybe, we haven’t got into those positions consistently in the past to know how to be able to put the nail in the coffin. It is something we have been working on, and hopefully, we can put all three disciplines together in this crucial game.”
In one way, history favours India, and in another, it also does not favour them doing well in this Test.
India will take comfort in the knowledge that Kensington Oval, once a fortress for West Indies, has become a jinx for them.
The hosts have lost six of the eight Tests they have contested at “the Mecca” since beating the visitors by 10 wickets nine years ago.
But India have an unflattering record at the ground, losing all but one of the eight matches they have played over the years.
A victory would give India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his side the honour of becoming the first team from their country to win both a Test and One-day International series in the Caribbean.
“We will try to do something that has not been done,” he said. “I will say the same things again. We will stick to the basics. We practised quite hard.
“Last day also we went to the field, because we got centre-wicket practice in Jamaica. So we did some good practice. We had a slightly extended practice session.
“Whichever areas are there where we need to improve and put in a little extra effort, we have backed up those areas.”
Both sides are likely to make only one change. For West Indies, Marlon Samuels will replace Brendan Nash, and for India, medium-fast bowler Munaf Patel will swap places leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
WEST INDIES (from): Darren Sammy (captain), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh Jr, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Kirk Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons
INDIA (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), V.V.S. Laxman (vice captain), Subramaniam Badrinath, Rahul Dravid, Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay
UMPIRES: Asad Rauf, Ian Gould
TV UMPIRE: Gregory Brathwaite
MATCH REFEREE: Chris Broad
RESERVE UMPIRE: Norman Malcolm