Virender Sehwag has been the anabolic steroid the Indian team has been using to propel itself forward with incredible momentum in Test matches. India has looked much less potent as a Test team, during Sehwag's lean period in the last six Tests since Lahore in January. When Sehwag scores, the opposition is in no doubt about his intent. He is out there to dominate the bowling and he scores so quickly that he sets up the opportunity to win. That intent to win, which he brings with his batting, pushes opposing captains on the back foot and they forget that they are also trying to win a Test match.
Brian Lara was the victim of Sehwag’s amazing onslaught at St. Lucia, spreading the field far and wide half an hour into the Test, trying to contain India. Lara was happy when Sehwag was not on strike and revealed as much in the post match press conference when he said that his bowlers did a good a job containing Wasim Jaffer. Sehwag’s innings had such an impact, that Lara forgot about winning the game and by the end of the day he was already reflecting on the flatness of the pitch and how his team can also bat well on this pitch. He had apparently given up the thought of bowling India out and was waiting for the declaration so that his team could also bat on this surface.
The opening session was the perfect Sehwag storm as he threatened to break all sorts of records. If not for a slow outfield, he would have definitely had a century before lunch, but had to settle for a mere 99. It was a spectacular assault on the West Indian bowling, and Dwayne Bravo in particular faced the brunt of his wrath. Bravo had been the best bowler for the West Indies through the one day series and in the first innings of the Antigua Test match. But, here in Bravo’s second over and the twelfth of the match, Sehwag pummeled him for 20 runs of five balls including two brutal sixes. Bravo’s confidence was destroyed and he bowled only 8 more overs in the innings. Pedro Collins was the only bowler who held his own, and kept the Windies in the match claiming all 4 wickets that fell on the first day, one of which was a beautiful indipper that cleaned up Yuvraj Singh. Oddly enough, Yuvraj hasn’t been able to reproduce his one day international form in the Test matches. Maybe he should have a chat with the sports psychologist, Dr. Rudi Webster, who Sehwag opened up to and that appears to have refreshed his mind.
On the second day, Lara showed his intent or lack thereof, when he opened the attack not with Collins, but Ian Bradshaw and then he gave the new ball to Taylor and Collymore. Dravid and the usually nervy Kaif began in aggressive fashion. Kaif overcame his first day nerves and drove the bowlers repeatedly to the cover boundary. The boundaries flowed in the first session as the scoring rate of the previous day maintained. Both batsmen made big hundreds with Kaif making his maiden Test ton. With three batsmen making 140 plus scores, India was well and truly in control of the Test. Even though, the run rate dropped in the post lunch session, the Sehwag impetus allowed Dravid to make his declaration early in the post tea session to test the weary Caribbean batsmen. Dravid's bowlers responded magnificently. On pitch developing some variation due to wear, Munaf Patel kept the ball within the stumps and bowled with good pace to claim back to back leg before victims. Anil Kumble capped of a near perfect day for India, when he trapped a tentative Lara, leg before with the bat tucked behind the pad.
It has been a complete momentum shift in the series, and unless the West Indian batsmen attack the Indian bowlers and transfer some of the pressure onto India, they will continue to lose wickets and will most likely lose the Test match. The pitch is still in favor of the batters, and there is no reason for them to think that they cannot bat out the whole day without the loss of too many wickets.