When the West Indies touched down in India last week ahead of the current two-Test series, there was an apparent uneasiness surrounding the tour for the visitors. Instead of arriving to prepare for an extensive and gruelling encounter with MS Dhoni's side, the West Indies had been purposely delivered to the subcontinent as the main dish in Sachin Tendulkar's hurriedly planned farewell dinner.
In the first Test in Kolkata, that uneasiness manifested itself on the field, as the West Indies played with a sense of resignation, almost acknowledging their supposed role in the little master's national victory lap.
The sheer magnitude of the the loss was of course significant—an innings and 51 runs—but it was the manner in which the tourists allowed India to assume control which will most concern cricket's observers.
After a somewhat disappointing first innings of 234, the visitors found themselves cornering India when the impressive Shane Shillingford claimed the wicket of Virat Kohli to reduce India to a rather desperate 83-5 early on the second day. In fact, the morning session on Thursday saw the West Indies rip India open, as they claimed five scalps for just 46 runs in less than 19 overs to stamp an unexpected authority on the match.
But that's where it stopped.
Rohit Sharma looked as though he hadn't yet removed his pads after his scintillating 209 against Australia in Bangalore, the Test debutant scoring a smooth 177 at No. 6 to haul his side back into a position of strength. Yet, as Sharma's innings grew in rhythm, the West Indies' intensity slipped away.
It was imperative for the visitors' quicks to bowl incisively and with hostility, yet Tino Best, Sheldon Cottrel and Darren Sammy proved completely ineffectual—combining for 2-195—leaving Shillingford with the burden of dismissing the home side.
However, as impressive as Shillingford was, Sharma and Ravi Ashwin—who added a majestic, albeit comfortable 124 of his own— were able to seize control of the innings almost as easily as Mohammed Shami ripped through the tourists on day three.
It might be rather cynical to suggest that the West Indies simply rolled over to accommodate India's wish for sending Tendulkar into the heavens on a wave of triumph. But it's naive to say that that apparent resignation didn't uncomfortably linger around the ground.
Certainly, Shami's movement through the air was quite a spectacle, particularly the sharp deviations back into the right handers. However, when Marlon Samuels was caught LBW by the speedster to send the West Indies to 110-3, it was as if a just-visible white flag was immediately waved.
Wickets tumbled and stumps flew out of the ground, but an alarming lack of defiance was shown. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was forced to watch the carnage at the other end, but his penchant for taking singles from the first ball of an over only seemed to hasten his team's demise.
After cruising to 101-1, the tourists collapsed to 168-all out, showing the sort of resistance, or lack thereof, that has been the unfortunate hallmark of their cricket in recent years.
Perhaps the 49th over of the innings best encapsulated the West Indies' mentality toward this series. Shami ripped through Sammy, who offered the sort of technical showcase that should be reserved for club cricket, before ensuring Shillingford endured the same fate. If that wasn't enough, Veerasammy Permaul was run out during an Indian appeal for LBW the very next delivery, showing his mind was perhaps already on the team bus sitting outside the ground.
Poor technique was followed by poor judgment, which was followed by utter carelessness.
This series had already been placed under a microscope before a ball had been bowled, given the manner in which it was organised. The way in which the West Indies succumbed to the home side only highlights why many felt this tour was set to be a showcase of meaningless cricket without context or consequence, that the BCCI's orchestration of a farewell party for Tendulkar was another worrying sign of the body's stranglehold on the game.
Somewhat ironically, however, it was Tendulkar who made only a brief appearance at his own festivity. The 40-year-old fell for just 10 early on day two, much to the disappointment of both the crowd and the game's organisers.
The 199 kilograms of rose petals that were set to be unleashed during Tendulkar's second innings will have to be saved for Mumbai next week.
Hopefully a much-improved West Indies performance can save the reputation of the series at the same time.
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