New Delhi: India's cricket team leaves on Monday for the West Indies, hoping to win its fist Test series outside the sub-continent in 16 years despite a poor record in the Caribbean.
Saurav Ganguly's team will play five Tests and as many One-day Internationals on the two-month tour of the West Indies where India has won just two of 33 Tests. The failure to win a series away from the sub-continent since a 2-0 victory in England way back in 1986, has rankled the current players, particularly pace spearhead Javagal Srinath. "It's time we won something abroad," said Srinath. "We have been talking about winning abroad but have not been able to do it. Not in my tenure at least, which now spans almost 10 years. "We have been close to winning on a couple of occasions but the bottom line is that we haven't. And we are ourselves responsible for it." Srinath and his colleagues will be inspired by two famous victories by their predecessors in the West Indies. The first came in the 1970-71 series when the voracious run-gathering appetite of young Sunil Gavaskar helped Ajit Wadekar's men beat Gary Sobers' team at Port-of- Spain to record their first win in the West Indies. Gavaskar strengthened the belief that the West Indies could be tamed in its own backyard as he belted 774 runs with four centuries in his maiden Test series. Then in 1976, India scored a record 406 for four in the fourth innings - which remains the most successful run chase in Test history - to stun Clive Lloyd's team at Port-of-Spain. Ganguly believes he has the resources to surprise the current West Indies, which is not the force it was a decade back despite the presence of brilliant left-hander Brian Lara. Carl Hooper's men have lost the last five Tests, including a 3-0 rout in Sri Lanka last year. "The boys will be happy to get away from the pressure and the hustle-bustle of playing at home," said Ganguly, fresh from a Test and One-day series win against Zimbabwe at home. "We had a good opportunity of winning the series in the West Indies the last time we went there in 1996-97, but ruined a golden chance at Barbados." India needed just 120 to win the Barbados Test under Sachin Tendulkar's captaincy, but were shot out for 81 to lose the five-match series 1-0. "I think the team will do better this time and break the jinx," Ganguly said. The Indian captain's confidence stems from the presence of youngsters who contributed handsomely to the team's victories against Zimbabwe. Left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra, 23, returns to provide variety to the pace attack after missing home Tests against England and Zimbabwe due to an ankle injury. "Nehra is a quality bowler," said Ganguly. "His fitness and availability is very important for him and the team. Our fast bowling looks pretty good." Srinath is the oldest in the pack at 32, while Tinu Yohannan and left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan are both 23-year-olds. All of them, however, are making their maiden trip to the West Indies. The series will provide a gripping contest between Tendulkar and a fit-again Lara, regarded as two of the premier batsmen in the modern game. India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Das, Deep Dasgupta, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkat Sai Laxman, Dinesh Mongia, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sanjay Bangar, Ajay Ratra, Tinu Yohannan, Ashish Nehra and Wasim Jaffer. Coach: John Wright.
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