AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarion.

Day 1 at the Kotla

(During the course of the first Test between India and West Indies at the Kotla, we'll post live updates, analysis, reader comments and reactions. Please hit F5 periodically for new posts.)

They got Brathwaite but India couldn't get Chanderpaul out. West Indies are 256-5, and if not for him, it would have been a lot worse. India's sloppy bowling in the evening also eased West Indies' scoring after their slow start. Ojha and Ashwin have all five wickets, but they need to run through the tail quickly. India have to bat fourth, and given how the wicket has played, they need to stop the visitors from running away with the momentum.

4.00 pm - India's old foe has done it again. Chanderpaul has completed his seventh hundred against his favourite opponents. Given the conditions, the slow nature of the wicket and the troublesome spot West Indies were in, this is a top-class hundred.

On a day, everyone else has struggled to get the ball off the square, Chanderpaul has needed just 144 balls to the mark, with six fours and two sixes - the only two aggressive shots played against the spinners all day today.

3.30 pm - Dismissal No. 200 for Dhoni, the first Indian wicketkeeper to the mark! Samuels is caught behind, and now India only need to contend with the West Indian lower order. And it remains to be seen if they have the technique to survive the spin twins. Ashwin and Ojha have claimed all five wickets so far.

It reminds one of the Kotla Test against Zimbabwe in 2002 where Kumble and Harbhajan shared all ten wickets in the second innings.

Meanwhile, here are the stats on Dhoni's achievement.

3.00 pm - Braithwaite finally falls, and with his wicket, falls one of India's oldest Test records. MS Dhoni has overtaken Syed Kirmani's tally of 198 Test dismissals, Braithwaite's stumping being his 199th.

Ojha teased the young batsman out of his crease. The ball spun away and bounced, beat the bat, and Dhoni did the rest. The day hasn't gone all to plan for India, who've been stonewalled by Baithwaite and out-thought by Chanderpaul.

Meanwhile, Umesh continues to search for his first wicket. Full and straight should do it, not the short length he's been bowling.

2.15 pm at tea- West Indies' recovery continues with Chanderpaul's breezy fifty. He rarely misses a chance to score runs against India. In 22 Tests against his favourite opponent, Chanderpaul averages 70 and he's looking good for his seventh hundred against them.

India had one moment of success in the noon session when Ashwin dismissed Bravo with a straighter one. It's been hard work since then. Brathwaite hasn't put a foot down all day.

Brathwaite was just 16 a couple of years back when he scored a double hundred in a First Class game. His words at the end of that knock: "You've got to concentrate, put all your faith and truth in god, and then just do what you do, just bat and bat."

That's what he's doing here.

1.30 pm - Chanderpaul's nudges for singles have raised the run-rate a tiny bit, but the going overall is still very slow. In the noon session, West Indies have made 51 in 18 overs - a pace that's likely to prevail through this game.

The wiry Brathwaite has batted over 26 overs now and has managed to not play a shot in anger. In making 50 off 157 balls, he's become just the second West Indian since Jeff Stollmeyer to score two Test fifties at the age of 18. He seems to be a good prospect - someone who can be the ice to Chris Gayle's fire, whenever he's back.

12.45 pm - Some would say good variations would be developing different versions of a stock ball. These are variations hardly visible to the naked eye - deliveries which are produced with similar looking-actions, but have different degrees of turn, or have varying trajectories and speed.

But Ashwin tends to be different. His mid-delivery pause, the carrom ball, the occasional leg-spinner show that he's trying to make no effort to disguise his variations. His acts of deception are very public. And at times, it seems he's trying too hard.

Whatever he's trying to do here paid off against Bravo. The left-handed Lara clone played back for the cut, but the ball stayed low, held its line and crashed into middle stump. It was Ashwin's first Test wicket - hopefully the first of many more to come.

At Lunch - A quick recap of the first session. The pitch at the Kotla has proven to be severely slow. Deliveries in the opening overs from Ishant and Umesh, despite being banged in, went to the wicketkeeper on the second bounce.

Ojha put down Powell in his first over, but took two wickets in an unchanged spell of 10 overs to put the visitors on the backfoot immediately. He's fresh off a stint with Surrey, where he took 24 wickets in four games, and followed that up with nine in the Irani Trophy. He's the man in form, and it shows.

His pace has been perfect; he's been tossing deliveries up in that in-between length where batsmen don't know if they want to play front or back, or if the ball will break away or hold its line. But his real test lies in tackling Chanderpaul and Samuels.

Braithwaite has made a patient 29. He's been really defensive, unwilling to go after the tossed up balls from the spinners. But remember that he's only 18, trying to make a mark at the Test level.

Overall, India bowled tidily. Ishant was straight, managed to get a couple of edges and LBW shouts, but this isn't a pitch for pacers.

11.30 am - 19 of the 33 overs in the opening session of a Test have been bowled by spinners. That should tell you much about what's to follow. The session belonged to Ojha, who walks off with figures of 2-14 in 10 overs.

Ojha held on to a return catch from Kirk Edwards, having put one down earlier. Some would remember Edwards for his hundred on Test debut against India in Roseau. He has come off an excellent string of scores against Bangladesh. But surviving the Indian turners will be a whole new challenge.

Brathwaite, still 18, has been really patient. India have given him nothing to drive or cut, but he has survived. Good on him. Bravo, having recently made 195 against Bangladesh, has had no troubles in moving to 10.

The pitch is ageing fast and the West Indian would need considerable skill to get through the noon session.

10.30 am - Umesh has been off-target. On a wicket that's staying low, he hasn't attacked the stumps enough, which Ishant has. Umesh is trying to pound the ball in halfway and it's been been going to Dhoni on the second bounce.

Meanwhile, Ojha comes on and there's action straight away. He put down Powell in his first over. It was an easy catch to his right bowling over the wicket. But Ojha switched around the wicket and got his man LBW. There's slow turn here and already the West Indians are displaying tentativeness in their footwork.

Ashwin is warming up.

10.15 am - It's nice to see Courtney Walsh on the Neo Cricket panel. The last of West Indies' great pacers finished with a world record 519 Tests wickets in 2001.

Since Walsh's time, West Indies have beaten only South Africa (once) in away games. That's one major win away in a decade, something Indian sides of the 1990s will relate to.

They haven't beaten India in the last 10 Tests (including seven at home), and they're pretty much swimming against the tide as far as prevailing in Kotla is concerned. It is one of India's strongholds.

The West Indian opening pair of Brathwaite and Powell is frighteningly raw with a combined age of 39, but they're doing all right for now. Their real job starts once the spinners come on.

A delivery from Umesh in the fourth over of the day skid past the batsman shin-high. A sign of things to come.

9.30 am - Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav will make their Test debut today. They'll be thrown to the deep end straight away with Darren Sammy electing to bat.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will have to wait for their turn with Yuvraj Singh returning to his No. 6 spot. This is a strange series. India don't want to be too casual and rest all the seniors, having suffered humiliation in England. But they also don't want to be too cautious since they have to build a solid bench with the Australian tour coming up.

So with Sehwag and Gambhir back, it may have been worthwhile rotating Dravid, Sachin and Laxman to play Kohli and Rahane.

Meanwhile, Yadav runs in hard and squares up Brathwaite first ball.

MS Dhoni inspects the wicket at the Kotla Stadium on November 4. MS Dhoni inspects the wicket at the Kotla Stadium on November 4.

MS Dhoni inspects the wicket at the Kotla Stadium on November 4.

It seems no match at the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium will begin without the mandatory concerns over the wicket.

It had played slow and low in the recent England ODI. Ahead of the Sunday Test, words like high saline content and cow dung mix are doing the rounds — with the presumption that the surface may deteriorate quicker than usual.

The concerns over the chemical composition of the wicket can be gathered from HT's report:

[The DDCA] had been struggling till late with the excess level of salt and lime, both of which impede the growth of grass and deter the binding of the track. Both these can lead to a crumbling and substandard wicket, according to experts.

"We have been watering the track a lot to wash the salt away," Chetan Chauhan, chairman of the pitch committee, told HT.

The problem began when DDCA, while assessing the wicket for the new season, summoned Raj Kumar Sharma from Himachal Pradesh as their first choice curator from Rajkot wasn't made available by the Saurashtra Cricket Association.

"He recommended changes, including that of soil," said Anil Jain, a member of the pitch committee. "I found the content of cow dung high in the soil they were using, so I asked them to get it from Hissar, which had a larger clay content. The cow dung would have deterred the binding of the track," Raj Kumar Sharma told HT.

Times of India reports:

Groundstaff sources suggested more grass had been shaved off, meaning lower bounce and lesser carry, with an increased possibility that the pitch would take some turn from Day 3 onwards. "It's not such a bad thing that it will take turn. English pitches bounce, don't they. It's home advantage," said Venkat Sundaram.

Long story short, play two quality spinners, win the toss, bat first and bat long.

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