Past records at the Warner Park wouldn’t encourage the bowlers especially. In three of the Test matches played here, the average first innings score has been 465, although in the last Test here Pakistan could only manage 272. But in the inaugural Test, India racked up 581 runs. In the second Test, South Africa plundered 543. The corresponding second innings scores were 362 and 546.
The opening day of the practice match between the Indians and the West Indies Board Presiden XI wasn’t any different, as for the bowlers — both spinners and seamers — laboured hard enough on flat wicket, with India technically losing only three wickets (three of them were retired out).
But the intermittent showers and the overcast sky must have brought back some respite for the Indian seamers. In the first half an hour, there was bit assistance for the seamers, who though wasted it with their errant lines.
The overcast conditions were perfect for Bhuvneshwar Kumar to prove his credential. He also started the proceeding on a promising note, pitching the ball fuller and forcing the batsmen to drive. He mostly swung the ball into the right-hander, and in between slipped in the outswinger.
By this, he managed to set up WICB Board President XI captain Leon Johnson. The Windies skipper had defended him reasonably well thus far, but Kumar bowled a few inswingers before delivering one slightly shape away from him, kissing his outside edge to the second slip.
At the other end, Mohammed Shami, who returned to international cricket after a lengthy lay-off, was showing good pace and teasing the batsmen outside the off-stump. However, both Shai Hope and Rajendra Chandrika were actually confused about the way the ball was moving, and another wicket seemed nigh.
But suddenly, Indian bowlers became impatient and tried a little too hard, which resulted in losing their direction. Shami seemed the first one who was affected by this sudden lapse in focus.
He began bowling a little too wide outside the off-stump and the batsmen had no such problem to leave the ball in its course. Then in a bid to rectify, he strayed down the leg, which the Caribbean batsmen capitalised well.
A restless Virat Kohli fiddled around with his field, sometimes even setting bizarrely unconventional fields—like at one point, he had a short mid-on and forward short-leg, the latter stationed deeper than usual. Predictably, Shami bowled short, but the lack of quality pace on the surface gave the batsmen enough time to play those comfortably on the backfoot.
Bhuvneshwar and Shami were soon replaced with Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. Ishant, while being sharp, bowled wide like Shami. Umesh, typically, was mercurial, at times deadly but mostly wild.
For instance, he bowled perhaps the ball of the morning, when he made one jump and sneak back at the batsman from short of length. The follow-up was a pathetic half-volley outside off-stump.
By this time, the strip was eased off the moisture, and the batsmen had nicely settled in, showing the sort of judgment and application that would actually shame some of their senior batsmen. The three-Test old Chandrika seemed the more strokeful of the pair, and he smashed a brace of brilliant boundaries through cover.
It was just a matter of time before Kohli had to introduce the spinners, and leg-spinner Amit Mishra replaced Ishant for a three-over spell just before lunch. The leggie bargained some sort of turn from the surface and the batsmen had trouble picking his mysterious googly.
He nearly trapped Hope in front one and after lunch, procured an edge off Chandrika, which fell short of the first slip. Like most batsmen unused to quality spinners, they played Mishra from the crease, neither committing on the front foot or back foot.
West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI 281 for 7 (Hope 118*, Chandrika 69, Warrican 50*, Mishra 4-67) drew with Indians 258 for 6 (Rohit 54*, Dhawan 51, Rahul 50)