India may already have wrapped up a series win over the West Indies in thrilling fashion on Saturday but there is still much to play for in the fourth and final Test in Port of Spain, Trinidad, beginning Thursday. India clinched a rare Test series win away from home when its bowlers came up big on the final day of the third Test to claim an unlikely victory in a match that appeared destined for a draw.
It was just reward for India, which has been on top almost the whole series, with the exception of the West Indies' brave resistance to hold on for a draw in the second test. And, in truth, it is thus far no more than was expected from Virat Kohli's side going up against a West Indies team that has fallen on hard times in cricket's five-day format.
But victory in the final Test would be something truly historic and come with a significant reward. Only once has India won three Tests in a series away from home, and that was 48 years ago. A win would also keep India as the No. 1 team in the Test rankings.
India only took the position this week following Australia's loss to Sri Lanka. A defeat in Port of Spain, though, would see India drop down to second, while a defeat would put it into fourth. It is fitting that in order to hold onto the honor India must display dominance away from home.
It has long been the Achilles heel of the India team that it has struggled in conditions out of the Indian Subcontinent. But a comprehensive win in the West Indies would go some way to demonstrating that this is now a new era under the captaincy of Kohli ahead of home Tests against Bangladesh, New Zealand and England later this year. And Ajinkya Rahane, who has scored an impressive 243 runs in the first three Test matches, believes it is imperative to maintain momentum.
“Our goal is to play attacking cricket and dominate West Indies here because we have been playing good cricket and it is important to finish well on this tour,” the batsman said. “3-0 will be very good and yes our long term goal is to be the number one team. Right now it is important to stay in the present moment. As Virat said, [we] play positive and want to express ourselves in the middle. That means we want to dominate here again like we did in the three Tests. It is important to be in that process regularly and think about achieving that No.1 as a team.”
For the West Indies, the motivation is simply to restore some pride after another dispiriting Test series. The Caribbean side has now failed to win any of its last 10 Test matches, losing eight. And speaking before the final test, team manager Joel Garner did not pull any punches in his assessment of what is holding back a team that is world champion in Twenty20 cricket but continues to struggle in the Test format.
“We always had promise,” he said at a press conference. “We always had the players. Most of the players are identified. The problem is they don't work hard enough. If every player is prepared to work as hard as they need to, we can reach the top of world cricket.
“The longer they bat in the middle, the easier it becomes to bat. That is something I would like them to do, not only batting long but bat effectively.”
West Indies vs. India 4th Test Schedule
Times: Thursday to Monday, play starting at 10 a.m. EDT each day.
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