West Indies need better conversion rates from their batsmen

Kemar Roach has been brilliant - Holder (1:56)

Jason Holder is all praise for this team's efforts and talks up Kemar Roach as one of the best West Indies fast bowlers (1:56)

"Why don't you move the game along? You are playing at home."

So went Virat Kohli's sledge to opposition captain Jason Holder as the West Indies captain and No. 10 Miguel Cummins looked to frustrate the dominant Indian side with a stonewalling ninth-wicket partnership. Of course, it was not a question whose answer Kohli was interested in. The intention of that dialogue was to induce a rash stroke from the batsmen because there wasn't much happening for the bowlers in the air or off the pitch. The inference was that the home team should be dominating and not trying to just consume time hoping to hang in.

Not that it will matter to Kohli, but the answer to that question is that while West Indies have made strides since the last time India toured them, they still aren't strong enough to be considered favourites at home.

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The most telling statistic in this series is that none of the batsmen in this West Indies XI averages 40 in first-class cricket. There are just 61 first-class hundreds in this line-up; Cheteshwar Pujara alone has 49. It's not like it is precocious talent picked on promise. Debutant Shamarh Brooks comes in with an experience of 73 first-class matches and just five centuries, opener John Campbell has three in 59, Kraigg Brathwaite is now a veteran of 57 Tests. Barring the injured Shane Dowrich, these are more or less the best batsmen with best stats in first-class cricket in the region.

On the field, though, both sides start the Test at 0 for 0. It is fascinating to watch West Indies trying to compete with what they have got. They did manage to beat England at home earlier this year. They have to try unconventional methods. They stack the side with batsmen with Holder, on current form perhaps their best batsman, batting at No. 8. This pitch has turned out to be flat after the early moisture dried out, but of late they have been playing on testing tracks, which tend to negate some of the superiority of the opposition batsmen.

Most importantly, though, they keep asking for application from their batsmen, who are practically learning on the job, which is not easy when an attack of India's quality doesn't give you any loose balls. The first innings of the Antigua Test was when unconventional methods seemed to have worked for them.

They had chosen to bowl - which surprised Kohli because you very rarely choose to bat last in Tests these days - equally, to make use of the early moisture and to avoid the risk of losing the Test on the first day with the bat. Yet it seemed to be working: after the early wickets gave West Indies a headstart, the surface flattened out, giving them the best conditions of the Test to bat in. A brief shower and a quick resumption softened the ball mid-innings. India had to pull out the rug repeatedly during that phase of play.

It showed in how each of their top eight got a start. No one played fewer than 27 balls, but damningly none of them lasted 75. This when they had an opportunity to get a lead big enough to negate having to bat last. They ended up 75 behind despite the best efforts of Holder and Cummins. It is a scoreboard you will rarely see with top Test sides where eight batsmen get in and none of them makes a telling contribution.

Roston Chase, one of those eight, was harsh on himself and the other batsmen. "Just a lapse in concentration, I guess, because none of us got any really special delivery, any unplayable delivery," Chase said after the second day's play. "It was just poor on our part to give our wickets away to such ordinary deliveries."

Nor was Holder going to grant his side's batting any consolation. "Extremely disappointed," he said of the match situation. "It has been a common thread for our batsmen now. For the last couple of years, we have not been able to step up in terms of the top order. I think the middle order to the lower half has done an exceptional job. Just a matter for us on surfaces such as this one, which has proven to be very good for batting, make use of it."

This is exactly why West Indies have opted for Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan to help the batsmen out. "I have been working hard in the pre-camp before," Chase said. "I've been working with Brian and Sars. One of the things we spoke about in the camp is after getting that start to carry on. I'm very disappointed in the way I got out today, after the start I was feeling very good at the crease, the runs were flowing quite easily and I didn't have to do anything out of the box to get runs today. So I was very disappointed at getting out in that manner. Not saying you can't get out or shouldn't get out, but it's the manner that you get out. Our bowlers, and myself, had to work very hard for wickets after the initial first period. So to get out like that was very soft."

Chase had played early at an Ishant Sharma inswinger to walk into a straightforward trap: a short midwicket catch on a slow pitch. And he is right: apart from Shai Hope, nobody got an unplayable delivery or was part of a set-up during which he was put under immense pressure. While it is heartening to see how much it has hurt Chase, it is important for their batsmen to find a way.

"You need to believe in yourself first of all, and then just sticking to the process, stay in that zone, stick to the process, and not stray away," Chase said. "That is what I guess is called discipline. Being able to do the right things for long periods, I think that's where we're falling down. We are doing the right things, but not for very long periods. Those mistakes cost you a Test match."

Since India's last trip of the West Indies back in 2016, the hosts' bowlers have progressed to the next level where they are genuine and consistent threats to visiting batsmen, but it is this batting that keeps letting them down. To address the batting, they sacrifice a pure bowler for an extra batsman or an allrounder, which also means extra workload for the in-form quicks. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel have bowled full spells on all three days of the Test now. The turnaround between this Test and the next is short. At some point they are owed a day and a half of putting their feet up.