Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
“The last stroke he would play in any cricket match and your name could go down in there”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy has announced that all the bowlers will be vying to get the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar during his 200th and final Test, which begins tomorrow in his hometown of Mumbai.
Sammy noted that all the bowlers know this is their chance “to go down in history” as the man who dismissed Tendulkar for the very last time in his illustrious 24-year career.
“From the moment we heard it is going to be his last Test in Mumbai, all the bowlers were quite motivated,” Sammy said. “There is a chance to go down in history. The last stroke he would play in any cricket match and your name could go down in there.
“We will see how it goes tomorrow and bringing down the curtains on a great career of a man who has been a great ambassador not only for India but world cricket.”
While the spotlight will be firmly focused on Tendulkar from tomorrow onwards, it will be a landmark match for West Indies veteran batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul as well as he will be playing in his 150th Test.
“[In] Tomorrow’s match our most experienced player would be playing his 150th game,” Sammy said. “That is a big milestone for him and for us. It will be overshadowed by Sachin’s 200. We, as a team, would go out and work hard for Shiv.”
Sammy also believes it would be rather fitting if Chanderpaul were to score 150 runs in his 150th Test.
“Like Sachin, everybody can see he has not changed,” Sammy added. “Shiv, when it comes to his batting, the way he prepares, he has been the same ever since I have known him. You could see the way it reflects on his game. I hope he goes on to score 150 in his 150th match. I don’t know if I could say the same for Sachin, that means he will get a double.”
Sammy is also hoping that Chanderpaul continues to represent the West Indies for the next couple of years.
“Shiv has been very important to us,” he said. “Since Brian (Lara) left, he has been the rock of the batting. The young players could take a page out of his book, the way he prepares. Hopefully he will be around in the dressing room for a few years to come.”
The 29-year-old feels honoured to be a part of Tendulkar’s final Test match, but clearly stated that the West Indies’ objective was to go out and win.
“It feels great,” he said. “It is a great honour for us, here to be taking part in his final Test match. And we still have to go out and focus on what we have to do. I think it is a great moment for Sachin, especially for what he has done in cricket in India and all over the world. He deserves all the praises and all the blessings that has been bestowed upon him.”
Sammy also pointed out that the West Indies could take a page out of India’s book on how to adjust from limited overs cricket to Test cricket in such a short period of time.
“Both teams came to this series playing one-day cricket,” he said. “India adjusted much quicker than us. We were not patient enough. Once we were put under pressure, we didn’t respond quite well. Something we have to work on.”
Following the West Indies’ innings and 51-run loss to India in the first Test in Kolkata, there were mounting calls for Sammy to be dropped, but the West Indian captain noted that he was unfazed by all the criticism.
“I have been through this situation since the first day I started my career,” Sammy said. “To be honest, right now, I am not even worried about it. I am not worried about the criticism. I am here to do a job to the best of my ability. Once the selectors or someone feels it is time to move on then so be it. We have moved on from Sammy in one-day cricket as captain, I will still enjoy my game. That is the least of my worries right now.”
Sammy also revealed that the West Indies have a gameplan on how to tackle India pace bowler Mohammed Shami, whose reverse swing allowed him to claim nine wickets in his debut Test match.
“We are prepared for that,” Sammy said. “Throughout the sessions, we have batted in Mumbai, we have got the balls scratched up, to get the reverse swing going. To practice more realistically, what we are going to face out there in the middle. It’s good when you have a raw quality that nobody knows about. He got a chance to play for India and he grabbed it with both hands.
“Also, we are prepared for other bowlers like Ashwin and Ojha. It’s about executing our plans properly and whatever India brings at us, we are ready to face it especially in pressure situations.”
One major concern for the West Indies has been the performance of flamboyant opening batsman Chris Gayle, but Sammy defended the big-hitting behemoth, stating that he “could come out on any given day”.
“I am not worried about Chris,” he said. “Chris is someone that could come out on any given day, like he has done all over the world, showing his attack. Hopefully, he could start with this match. Over the years, we have learnt not to rely on one person. His form is not a worry for us. It’s us collectively as a batting group that is more worrying than one person in particular. We have to bat at least 120 overs in the first innings. It is very important to get a good first innings score here in India and we have not been able to do that.”
One area in which Sammy would like the West Indies to improve upon is playing all five days of a Test match instead of being thrashed in under three days, like they were in Kolkata.
“It is always tough to play India in India,” he admitted. “It is a tough battle. These things are like [a] challenge. We have to show that we [can] rise to the occasion and come there and give Sachin a good send-off. The pitch looks really good. It looks like a good cricket pitch and we all know Mumbai is good for the first three or three and a half days and the spinners can play.
“So, hopefully, we could stretch and play five full days of cricket.”