Schedule for West Indies' full tour of India released

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India will host the West Indies for two Tests, five ODIs and three Twenty20s in October-November, the BCCI said on Tuesday.

The Test series will begin on October 4 in the western city of Rajkot followed by the second and final Test in Hyderabad from October 12 to 16. It means there will be a gap of barely one week between the final of the Asia Cup in the UAE at the end of the month and the first Test, should India reach the final.

The five ODIs will be played in Guwahati (October 21), Indore (October 24), Pune (October 27), Mumbai (October 29) and Thiruvananthapuram (November 1).

The cities of Kolkata (November 4), Lucknow (November 6) and Chennai (November 11) will host T20 matches.

The West Indies had pulled out of their previous tour of India in 2014 because of a pay dispute with their board.

The Dwayne Bravo-led side went back after playing four ODIs. They were scheduled to play one more one-dayer, a one-off T20 and three Tests on that tour.

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India are the worst performing Test team in fourth-innings chases

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The Indian team will think long and hard about what went wrong in the Test series against England as they conceded it 3-1 with one Test to go.

India entered the series with their strongest ever pace bowling attack and despite the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah at the start of the series, had enough firepower to take 20 wickets relatively cheaply.

England won the second Test at Lord’s by an innings effectively inside two days while India bounced back in the third at Trent Bridge as they won by 203 runs. The series boiled down to two close games – the first Test in Birmingham and the fourth at Southampton. And this is where India’s growing problem came to the fore.

While India’s batting has become increasingly dependent on captain Virat Kohli to score runs in tough conditions, the team has also made it a habit of failing to chase down achievable targets in the fourth innings.

In the last five years, the team has squandered four golden opportunities to register wins away from home.

The first instance came in the 2015 Galle Test when India were set a target of 176 on a dry pitch. Sri Lanka, led by spin veteran Rangana Herath’s 7-48, bowled out India for just 112 as a 63-run loss ensued for the visitors.

Then against South Africa at the beginning of this year, the Indians were set a challenging target of 208 in the first Test in Cape Town.

However, the Indians fell well short of the target as they were bowled out for 135 with Vernon Philander picking up six wickets in the second innings.

The trend continued in the five-Test series in England. In the first Test in Birmingham, India were set a gettable target of 194 on a pitch that was still good enough to bat on. But they could only manage 162 as they fell 31 runs short of the target with Ben Stokes picking up four wickets.

And then in the fourth Test in Southampton with the series on the line, India were asked to score 245 to level the series but were dismissed for 184 with off-spinner Moeen Ali picking up four.

In the last five years, India have failed to chase down targets of less than 250 on four occasions. Pakistan and South Africa have failed to do it twice while Australia and West Indies have been unable to do so once.

It goes to show that while India might still be the No1 Test team in the world, they are simply unable to chase down any sort of fourth-innings target.

In fact, the last time India chased down a target of more than 100 outside Asia was in 2003 against Australia.

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Why Graeme Swann should be considered a better off-spinner than Ravi Ashwin

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Ravi Ashwin has gone missing in some big series.

There were many reasons for India‘s defeat in the fourth Test against England at Southampton which saw them concede the five-match series 3-1 with one to go.

India’s batsmen failed to chase down gettable targets during the first Test in Birmingham and the fourth in Southampton with England’s bowlers chipping in at just the right time to pull the match the hosts’ way. Seam bowling all-rounder Sam Curran was a revelation with the bat as he scored more than 250 runs while the returning Moeen Ali finished with nine wickets in match four to go with his first innings knock of 40.

For India, captain Virat Kohli piled on more than 500 runs in the series while his pacers were on the money pretty much every innings. But when the moment came to grab the initiative, India fell short.

One area that will hurt Team India particularly is the performance of Ravi Ashwin in the fourth Test. It was a wicket that was tailor-made for the ace off-spinner. The pitch in Southampton was dry and big roughs were created on both sides of the pitch by the second day itself.

When Moeen Ali bowled in India’s first innings, he got the ball to spin sharply from the rough and got appreciable bounce. He managed to beat batsmen in the air and off the pitch, snaring five quality Test wickets.

The hope was that Ashwin would go one better, especially after India managed to sneak in a 27-run lead and England were reduced to 92-4 and 122-5 in the second essay.

Even as the pitch deteriorated and the ball exploded off the surface, Ashwin failed to land the ball consistently at one place, forget beat the inside or outside edge of the bat.

The manner in which he celebrated the wicket of Ben Stokes showed he was relieved at getting a wicket at last. However, more than 37 overs for 84 runs and one wicket was simply not good enough in a surface where Moeen picked up nine in the match.

When England pace ace James Anderson got ideal bowling conditions in the second Test at Lord’s he decimated the Indian line-up twice to bowl them out for 107 and 130 with nine in the match, no questions asked. Top performers raise their game when the team needs them and especially when the conditions suit them. Anderson did, Ashwin didn’t.

Ashwin was probably carrying an injury from the third Test. In that case, he should not have played the fourth Test and his spot should have gone to Ravindra Jadeja who is guaranteed to pick up quick wickets on helpful surfaces.

This isn’t the first time Ashwin has failed to make the most of a helpful surface. Against the same opposition in the 2012 Test in Mumbai, the Indians had amassed 327 in the first innings on a pitch that was already breaking up. But instead of strangling the life out of England with India 1-0 up in the series, he bowled 42.3 overs for two wickets and 145 runs as Kevin Pietersen hit arguably the greatest century by a visiting batsman in India. England won the match and went on to win the series.

Ashwin doesn’t have any major series wins outside Asia under his belt and that puts him below England off-spinner Graeme Swann in the history books.

Ashwin has 327 wickets from 62 Tests while Swann has 255 from 60. But Swann was star of the show in two of England’s greatest Test series wins in contemporary cricket.

Swann picked up 20 wickets – the joint-most in the series – as England won the 2012 Test series in India. He took 15 wickets from five Tests as England tasted Ashes glory Down Under in 2010/11.

Both were exemplary efforts in tough conditions that should put Swann ahead of Ashwin in Test hierarchy.

Moreover, Ashwin has tinkered with his action and bowling style throughout his career. He has brought in many variations, the ‘carrom ball’ and recently even switched to leg-spin to revive his white-ball career. In between all this, there hasn’t been a long-enough spell of pure off-spin bowling season after season.

Swann, on the other hand, stayed true to his art and started his Test career at the age of 28. So while the record book will show Ashwin as the more successful off-spinner in Tests, it’s Swann who has had a greater impact on the narrative.

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