Getting back to the game, it seems that a glaring rift has appeared between Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble. First, Ganguly doesn't go with the selection of Kumble in the team and then he doesn't even facilitate a situation where he could captain the second-stringers in a no-consequence match. There is no doubt that Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are now involved in a direct head-to-head clash for a spot in the team and that Ganguly is backing Harbhajan. The posing question should be: Why? Well, in my mind, it's pretty obvious. Senior players always need to be isolated by a captain when he himself is weak. It is always the senior players that determine the rise and fall of a coach and captain. I wish I were a fly on the wall at Indian team meetings!
Just reflecting on possible reasons why Kumble has been left out and Harbhajan has been preferred led to me to read a comment made by Ganguly saying that due to the high number of left-handers in the Windies line-up, he would rather play the off-spinner. It made absolute sense until I checked up on the statistics from the last Test and discovered that Harbhajan never even got one single left-hander out in any innings. Just for the record, he did get Williams and Sanford out in the first innings—remember Sanford is a genuine No. 10, and in the second innings he got Sarwan out for 41. And let's not forget that Harbhajan made a total batting contribution in both his knocks of precisely zero! So who is fooling whom here? There has to be another reason behind India not playing one of their best bowlers of all time.
The West Indies are in a tight spot and have to make the play from now on in the series. Another loss and they can kiss the series goodbye. Their pride is at stake and they will need to resist the temptation to not panic in selecting the team as well as when they come under any sort of pressure during the match itself. Lara has stated that captaincy is not for him and that he just has a desire to score runs and nothing else. The fact that the bowlers are not able to produce the goods consistently puts him under enormous pressure, and more often than not he finds himself playing catch-up when coming in to bat.
Both teams lack class at the top of the order and it continually puts pressure on the middle-order. India are not settled on an opening pair and one can only feel for Rahul Dravid, who's been playing repairman almost every innings. I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't any merit in him opening the batting.
Getting back to my old friend Ganguly. Now that he has a lead, let's watch and see how he captains the team in the Tests ahead. His gesticulating and moving fielders around after almost every delivery has become embarrassing and now that he has a lead in a series away from home, he will be tested.This Test is going to be a watershed for the Indian captain. A loss will leave him under enormous pressure, but a win will probably ensure him longevity. This is his Test.
Let's hope the umpires play their part and lift their game to the same level as the players on the field. If they don't, all hell could break loose.
Pat Symcox : The right-arm spinner and former senior member of the South African team writes exclusively for Outlook on the India-West Indies series