India and West Indies share a rich history in cricket, with the first Test between these two having been played as far back as 1948. India couldn’t notch up a single victory against them until 1971, when a certain Sunil Gavaskar, making his debut, contributed in both innings to hand India a seven-wicket win. Over the years, the West Indian domination has faded away, yet they still remain a testing opposition, especially in home conditions.
A few Indian cricketers have consistently performed well against the West Indies. Here’s a look at five of them:
Kumble returns to the Indian Team setup, this time in the capacity of head coach, having been given the role last month. As a player, Kumble was known for his resolute persona, battling the odds to conjure that elusive wicket for India. Not in the traditional leg spinner mould, his deliveries used to zip off the surface, often disconcerting the best of batsmen.
His first Test series against the West Indies was in 1994, when the then 24-year old picked up 13 wickets from three Tests. In the first innings of the third Test at Mohali, Kumble took 4-90, assisted in the bowling attack by two more spinners in the form of Venkatapathy Raju and Aashish Kapoor. He travelled to the Caribbean in 1997, this time in a more central role, gathering 19 victims across five Tests. His 2002 tour was cut short, owing to a fractured jaw courtesy a Mervyn Dillon bouncer, but he left for home not before picking up the wicket of Brian Lara, complete with a bandaged jaw, epitomising his never-say-die spirit.
He played one more series, in 2006, picking up 23 wickets, including 6-78 in the last innings of the final Test, running through the batting to give India its first series win in the West Indies in 35 years.
Overall figures against West Indies: Matches: 17 Wickets: 74 Best: 6-78 Average: 29.78 Strike-Rate: 63.4
Known for his penchant for scoring against Australia, VVS Laxman was a prolific run-scorer against the West Indies as well. When comparing his overall career with his performances against the West Indians, his batting average jumps from 46 to 57, with 1715 runs in 22 matches. His last Test century also turned out to be against the same opposition, an unbeaten 176 at his famous hunting ground, the Eden Gardens.
He played six Tests against them on Indian soil, averaging a whopping 94.83 and with two centuries to his credit.
Sachin Tendulkar‘s record against the West Indies is also noteworthy, but Laxman edges him out with a superior contribution in matches that worked out in India’s favour. In seven Tests that India won, Laxman scored 493 runs at an average of 61.62.
Overall figures: Matches: 22, Runs: 1715, Average: 57.16, 100s: 4, Best: 176*
One of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, and the first to reach 10,000 runs as well as 30 Test centuries, Sunil Gavaskar had a particular liking for the West Indian pacers, one of the most dreaded bowlers of their time. The diminutive batsman’s debut series was in the Caribbean, and he stamped his authority all over their bowling attack, scoring 65 and an unbeaten 67 in the second Test, and following it up with scores of 116,117,124 and 220, also becoming the first batsman since Doug Walters to score a century and double century in the same Test. He aggregated a mammoth 774 runs on the tour. So much for debut series jitters!
The Little Master played just one match each against them in 1974 and 1975, but was back to his elements in 1976, scoring two more hundreds and aggregating 390 runs in 4 Tests. He followed it up with another prolific series in 1978, notching up three hundreds, including a 205 at his home ground in Mumbai. The last Test saw him score 107 and 182 not out at Eden Gardens. He scored another century in the year next to that, this time at Delhi.
His final series against them was in 1983, against a bowling attack made up of Marshall, Roberts and Holding. He made it count with an unbeaten 236 at Chennai, which stood as the highest Test score by an Indian until Laxman’s 281 in 2001.
Overall figures against West Indies: Matches: 27, Runs: 2479, Average: 65.45, 100s: 13, Best: 236*
He has been part of six series involving India and West Indies, averaging at least 49 in each one of them. Starting with 1997, which was his second year of international cricket, Dravid averaged 72, which included a 92 in the final Test against a pace attack comprising of Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop. In the company of Sachin Tendulkar, who top-scored with 92, Dravid had also provided a rearguard action in the third Test, scoring a doughty 78 at Barbados.
In 2002, India travelled to the Caribbean for a five-Test series. Coming in at Number 5, Dravid compiled a serene unbeaten 144, an innings which was studded with 23 boundaries. At Port-of-Spain, he was promoted to No.3, and responded with 67 and 91 in the second and fourth Test. Apart from Laxman, Dravid was the only Indian batsman who could manage in excess of 400 runs on that tour. He continued his form with another unbeaten hundred at Mumbai, giving India their first innings victory over the West Indies.
In 2006, he captained the side to their first series win in the Caribbean in 35 years, single-handed taking his side to victory in the final Test with 81 and 66 on a dodgy pitch in Jamaica. He also scored a 146 in the second Test a Gros-Islet.
He returned to the islands for one final hurrah in 2011, scoring 112 in the second innings and finishing with most runs from either side. In the return leg later that year, he scored 119 at Kolkata, with India winning the match by an innings and 15 runs.
Overall figures: Matches: 23, Runs: 1978, Average: 63.80, 100s: 5, Best: 146
The “Haryana Hurricane” is still remembered for captaining India to their maiden World Cup triumph against the two-time Champions in 1983. In Tests, he holds the record for most wickets in India-West Indies matches, with 89 wickets from 25 matches, more than the likes of Marshall, Roberts and Hall, and 15 more than the next-ranked Indian, Anil Kumble. This includes a spell of 9-83 at Ahmedabad in late 1983, which India still lost by 138 runs. The innings-figures remained the best by an Indian bowler until Kumble took all ten against Pakistan in 1999.
He also scored more than 1000 runs in 25 matches, averaging over 30 with the bat. Although India managed to win just two Tests out of them, Kapil scored a century and took 8 wickets in those two. In his last series against them in 1989, Kapil picked up 18 wickets, with a best of 6-84. The 1979 series highlighted his all-round prowess, averaging over 100 with the bat and picking up 11 wickets.
Overall figures against West Indies: Matches: 25, Runs: 1079, Batting Average: 30.82, 100s: 3, Best: 126*, Wickets: 89, Best Bowling: 9-83.