Hooper counting on Lara at record-breaking ground
ST. JOHN’S (Antigua): Captain Carl Hooper is counting on Brian Lara to lead the charge in the fourth Test against India, starting on Friday at the same ground where he scored a world record 375 eight years ago.
India won the second of five tests in Trinidad by 37 runs last month but West Indies hit back to level the series 1-1 in Barbados with a thumping 10-wicket victory. “Our best batsman in the side, Brian Lara, has yet to really get going in the series,” Hooper said after a practice session on Wednesday. “We are hoping he gets going in this match and in the fifth Test at Jamaica. He can make a huge difference when he’s playing well.”
Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul have scored two centuries each in the series so far, but Ramnaresh Sarwan and Lara have failed to reach three figures despite having scored 50 twice.
“Our batting so far in this series has been good, but we haven’t really gone out full steam. There are still a few areas in that department that we can work on,” Hooper said. The Barbados win was the first for the West Indies in nine Test matches and was hailed as a turnaround for a side that had gone into the match having lost six of their last seven tests.
Opening worry: But West Indies still have a problem at the top of the batting order, where Chris Gayle and Stuart Williams failed to make an impression in the first three Tests.
Williams has been replaced for the Antigua match by Wavell Hinds and Hooper said he had great hopes from the left-hander. “Hinds has opened in Australia and he did for the first three tests against South Africa last year, so it’s not a new position for him,” Hooper said. “With two crucial Tests left in the series, the selectors want to get people into the side who are in good nick and have experience.”
Hinds, who has played 20 tests, scored 175 batting at number three for a Busta XI side again India in a three-day side match at St. Lucia last month. But on the bowling front, normally West Indies’s main area of concern, Hooper has hardly any worries after the show put up by his four-pronged pace attack at Barbados.
Man of the Match Mervyn Dillon, Cameron Cuffy, Adam Sanford, and left-arm seamer Pedro Collins bowled India out for 102 in the first innings on a lively pitch and then restricted them to 296 in the second to leave the batsmen just five runs to knock off for victory.
“We can’t thank the bowlers enough for the great show they put up in the last Test,” Hooper said. “They finally came good when it mattered and showed us exactly what they were capable of doing when they put their hearts into it.”
Bowling options: Hooper, however, is still unsure about using four pacemen or going with three seamers and spinner Dinanath Ramnarine on a track that is known to offer some assistance to slower bowlers. “We went with four quicks in Trinidad and Barbados, but in Test matches that have been played here there has always been a little bit for the spinners,” Hooper said.
India are likely to bring back leg-break bowler Anil Kumble, who was left out of the last two Tests for off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. Kumble is India’s most successful current bowler with 318 wickets in 69 Tests.
Ganguly had decided to go with Harbhajan just 10 minutes before the start of the Trinidad Test and later described that decision as the toughest he’s had to make as captain. The Indians are also considering replacing wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra, who has been a disappointment with the bat, with Deep Dasgupta.
Squads: West Indies: Carl Hooper (captain), Wavell Hinds, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Mervyn Dillon, Adam Sanford, Pedro Collins, Cameron Cuffy, Ryan Hinds, Dinanath Ramnarine.
India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Sundar Das, Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Vangipurappu Laxman, Deep Dasgupta, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Ajay Ratra, Dinesh Mongia, Sarandeep Singh, Tinu Yohannan, Sanjay Bangar. —Reuters