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West Indies dig a grave for themselves with a spin-friendly deck

Last updated on 12 Jul 2023 | 11:26 PM
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West Indies dig a grave for themselves with a spin-friendly deck

India couldn’t have asked for a better welcome in Dominica

A day before the first Test in Dominica, India’s skipper Rohit Sharma was pretty confident about his read of the pitch. 

“We will play two spinners and three pacers,” said Rohit, supporting his argument with the last Test in Dominica. It was way back in 2017 when 17 wickets fell to spin, famously known for Shannon Gabriel’s heave. 

There’s this stereotype about West Indian pitches - that it is fast and pacy. It has extra bounce, and the pacers lick their lips whenever they see the conditions. The era of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft rippled fear among the batters. 

Even Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Shannon Gabriel and Jerome Taylor possessed the skills to make the batters struggle. Traditionally, West Indies are a side dependent on their pace unit to create any kind of pressure with the ball. Even as latest as 2019, the conditions in the Caribbean were extremely pace-friendly, with the Duke’s ball moving. 

But then the pitch on offer here in Dominica was West Indies digging themselves a grave. The first ball that left Ravichandran Ashwin’s hand signalled that Windies were staring at a barrel - a double-barrel shotgun that was well and truly pointed at thyself. 

And West Indies were far from equipped for that. 

The first look at the pitch in Dominica had a tinge of moisture, but underneath that moisture was West Indies’ demon - a dry brown surface - that would have made India feel like a home away from home. There were clear and evident signs that the ball was going to turn. 

If anything, it was only a MATTER OF WHEN? As early as the ninth over, when Ashwin got Tagnerine Chanderpaul in two minds, the writing was on the wall. But the writing was always on the wall. 


"These pitches are not helping us. The most it is doing is frustrating us as a group," Nicholas Pooran once famously said after West Indies were whitewashed 0-3 by Bangladesh in an ODI series back in 2022. 

Different formats, of course. But the underlying fact remains that when it comes to spin bowling, West Indies cricket have been constantly underwhelming, and this time, they have dug up their own grave. 

Since 2020, when Test cricket really was revolutionised by the advent of the World Test Championship (WTC), Windies cricket has suffered at the hands of spin. West Indies average the lowest - 27.1 - among the top ten Test-playing nations. 

It would be fine if the gap between them and the next team on the list was small. A gap of over five runs only goes on to say that the Men in Maroon have now found spin tough for at least three years in a row. But it would still be a different case if they performed well against spin at home, right? 

If you look at the numbers, you would only continue to be disappointed. In the same time frame, Windies average 29.5 against spin at home. And the fact that their run rate against spinners has been 2.3 doesn’t help them further. 

Ashwin ripped one beating Chanderpaul’s outside edge. At that moment, Ashwin knew exactly what he had to do - nothing fancy - but to stick to his strength of bowling the long spell and making the batters second guess their own technique. 

"Pretty good performance. There was moisture in the pitch in the first session. It got slow and started to spin a bit more. It got a lot more slower. Personally enjoyed my first spell and had to adapt a bit more after,” Ashwin said after the end of the first day’s play. 

If it was the drift and sharp turn that went past Chanderpaul’s defence, it was the wise change of length that sucked the Windies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite into an early heave. 

Alzarri Joseph isn’t a mug with the bat, either. But Ashwin was a few steps ahead of the right-handed batter, who was confident of the sweep shot. The amount of sweep shots that Ashwin has witnessed over the last two years has, if anything, only made him better as a bowler.

Ashwin threw the carrom ball, and Joseph could only find the fielder playing across the line. Even Alick Athanaze, who on debut, seemingly found the nature of the pitch, was undone by Ashwin’s street-smartness. After realising that Athanaze isn’t quickly going on the backfoot, the off-spinner bowled a shorter delivery with rigour, catching the debutant by surprise. 

“Not surprised with the pitch, expected it to be a bit dry. In my previous tours of West Indies, when it spins, it also tends to be slow,” uttered a calm Ashwin, and as he continued to break records, he flashed an important message to the Windies cricketing board. 

Prepare spin-friendly conditions at your own destruction


Let’s put it this way. Windies cricket have been terrible against spin. It is a well-known fact for some time now, at least in the last three years. 

But then, there should be a reason why such pitches are prepared. At least for the spin bowlers in the country? Since 2021, the host spinners have picked up 15 wickets, averaging 69.3, with a strike-rate of 137.2. 

That’s nearly 23 overs for a wicket. When you further break it down, Rahkeem Cornwall has picked up five wickets, with Veerasammy Permaul too picking up five wickets. But one averages 63.6 whilst the other 50.8. 

West Indies have shot themselves in the foot, not just badly but royally. 

When you see that their pacers have picked up 296 wickets since 2020, only behind England, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, it only screams: WHY ON EARTH, WINDIES? 

Rally round Spin around the West Indies.

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