The forecast was not good, but unfortunately for India and West Indies it was accurate. Only 22 overs were bowled on the first day of the final Test at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Thursday (August 18) before driving rain pushed the players indoors and eventually caused play to be called off just after 2pm.
It had been a lively enough morning with India once again ringing in the changes to their playing XI. M Vijay was back, in place of Shikhar Dhawan, and surprisingly, Cheteshwar Pujara returned, replacing Ravindra Jadeja.
On a pitch that both captains described as looking a touch dry in the lead-up to the game, it was surprising that India departed from their five specialist-bowler approach. With a long home season ahead, India may have had one eye on checking out their best batting options, but, equally the return of Pujara would allow Virat Kohli to slot back in at No. 4.
India’s changes were not tested as Jason Holder won the toss and chose to bat. Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave the new ball every chance to swing, but Leon Johnson and Kraigg Brathwaite settled in after an early lapse. In only the third over, Bhuvneshwar drew the edge from Brathwaite, but Kohli dropped the chance at second slip.
From there on, Brathwaite seemed determined to make the most of the let-off, treating the bowling with caution and respect. It was not until the first bowling change that India broke through, Ishant Sharma striking with his first ball of the match. Banged in a touch short and slanting across the left-handed Johnson, the ball reared enough to draw the false shot. Prodding without going fully back or forward, Johnson popped a catch to the man under the helmet on the leg-side.
India did not have to wait long for their second success of the morning, R Ashwin taking sweet revenge against Darren Bravo, who had launched the offie over mid-on for a boundary. Off the next ball, Bravo came forward in defence, but the ball drifted and dipped and then gripped the surface enough to slide past the outside edge and peg back the stumps.
Marlon Samuels, playing in what has widely been speculated to be his last Test match, joined Brathwaite (32 not out) and the two were coming to terms with the Indian bowling when rain stopped play.
This is the season for rain in Trinidad and even before the game, it was anticipated that the players would be challenged, having to go on and off for rain breaks. Kohli explained how the bowlers tried to deal with this. “Sometimes when you have too many interruptions, some people tend to think they can relax, but I think you require more concentration in an interrupted game,” said Kohli. “When there’re no breaks, you can plan according to how the game will go for five or four days. But with breaks, your plans and concentration will be disrupted very quickly. The term that people say, ‘switch off and switch on’ I think that is the most important factor in an interrupted game. That’s what a cricketer has to master pretty quickly in his career, because in these sort of games, you don’t want a situation where you’re not 100% into a game if you get interruptions. It’s challenging, but when it happens you have to make sure that you get a hang of this as well, because it does happen quite often, especially in Test cricket.”
For Holder, it was pretty much the same, the challenge being ready to go out to the middle at any point, without having the luxury of being able to plan things. “It is tough [to keep going off and on]. Some people switch off but one thing the coach always says in the dressing-room is that when there is rain around, we need to stay switched on,” explained Holder. “We make sure that players are switched on when they are supposed to be. But when there is rain around and there is nothing to do, we just chill and try to relax. We play a few card games and not talk cricket and have some fun. We just try to keep things as happy as possible to pass time and see when we can get play.”
There was enough and more time for card games on Thursday, and if the weather man is right, Friday is not going to be any better.