At the end of day 4, the West Indians have a slight upper-hand in this game. Disregarding Jerling’s incompetence and without going into the previous games, it’s clear to me that the Windians don’t deserve to win. They somehow conjured a 219-run lead, and then failed to enforce the follow-on. Memories of India’s Sydney Test in 2003-04 abound. Then, Ganguly’s singular defensive decision had laid to waste a golden opportunity. If you want to beat a better side, you need the conviction to go with it. You need to be courageous and not be afraid to attack. If you don’t have the heart for it, you don’t deserve to win.
Apart from that, enforcing the follow-on in such a situation is just a better decision from all perspectives. Consider what could’ve happened had the West Indies enforced the follow-on today.
- They bowl India out before the end of the second session on the 5th day. In that case, a lead of 219 would’ve been more than enough. Considering the Indians would’ve been staving off defeat for most of the innings, their run-rate wouldn’t have been very good. The West Indians wouldn’t have been required to bat again, or if they were, they would’ve likely needed less than 80 runs. Even on a wearing 5th day pitch, they would back themselves to score 80 runs in three hours (the worst case scenario). The result: West Indies win.
- India bats through the 5th day. The West Indians couldn’t get them all out. Fine. They’re not going to be able to do in two and a half sessions tomorrow what they wouldn’t have been able to do in four sessions anyway. The result: draw.
- West Indians bowl India out in the last session of the day, and now require a 100 runs from 15 overs or so. The Windians would’ve had a realistic chance of chasing that, but even if they lost a few quick wickets, they know they can play out the remaining overs. The result: draw or West Indian win.
Enforcing the follow-on virtually ensures that the West Indians wouldn’t lose, while significantly enhancing their possibility of a win. Consider their current predicament now. They lead by 332 runs today with 6 wickets in hand. What is the minimum number of runs required to ensure West Indies don’t lose? Nobody knows, for you can’t entirely discount the possibility of a Sehwag special or a late Dhoni blitz. With every over that the West Indies bat, the chances of India not losing keep going up. If they declare too early, India will have a small chance of winning, as opposed to no chance of winning had they enforced the follow-on.
I can imagine those who disagree with me making two counter-arguments:
1) Making India feel that they can get to the target would increase the odds of West Indians getting them all out quickly.
Not really. The assumption here is that the Indians will play more aggressively (and thus provide more chances) then they would’ve had the follow-on been enforced..
- Playing too defensively (especially for the natural aggressors) can have a similar effect. Plus, as soon as India loses a wicket, they’re going to go in the defensive mode anyway.
- Also, consider the reality of the situation. Sehwag’s going to play his natural game no matter what, and anybody who saw India’s recent Tests against England will know what their approach is going to be. They will be circumspect early on, and if they still have enough wickets in hand towards the end, they might have a go at the target.
- Even if this assumption were true, the West Indians then could’ve employed extremely attacking fields which would have increased their chance of getting wickets. Remember the 3rd Test against Pakistan in India last year? India completely shut-down shop, Pakistan attacked by having 6 men close in, and ended up winning the game with about 6 overs to spare (if I remember correctly).
- And let’s not forget that this scenario violates the one pre-condition that has been set up by Brian Lara: West Indies cannot lose. So, are they going to give India a “realistic” chance at the target? No. Even if they do, is India going to fall for the trap? No.
2) Batting again gives the tired bowlers a chance to rest.
This is where the bit about having a heart for it comes into play. If the West Indies can have Bradshaw bowl 23 overs on the trot in a game they had little hope of winning, surely they can conjure the energy to bowl again here. Plus, with Gayle and Samuels in the team, they can give their main bowlers a rest when needed. Also, if the bowlers were effective early on and did take a few wickets, they would need no encouragement: they would all be eager to run in and finish the job off. The situation itself would’ve been the motivating factor.
3) They have a better chance of bowling India out on a wearing, 5th-day pitch.
Let’s not even consider the fact that the West Indies have no specialist spinner. But surely they realize that they’ll get the use of the pitch for most of the 5th day anyway. The pitch is not going to be that different between the second and third sessions on the last day.
I rest my case here.