Mumbai, Oct.12: With the West Indies challenge crumbling quicker than India’s hockey defence in Busan, an utterly premature finish to the first Test, at the Wankhede, became a reality all too soon this afternoon.
Statistically, Sourav Ganguly’s Team India inflicted the first-ever innings defeat in bilateral face-offs with the visitors.
Actually, the heartbreak time in Busan coincided with a wonderful moment here. As Sourav pointed out (albeit in a different context), “such is life and such is sport”. In fact, after losing each of the last two Tests at the Wankhede inside three days, the Indians did well to regain the champions-at-home aura. That does count in contemporary sport.
Following-on exactly 300 behind India’s 457, the West Indies’ second innings folded at 188, a good 113 short of making the home team bat once more. Now that the winning habit has taken root — this afternoon’s victory being the year’s fifth — the show of emotion wasn’t excessive. Rather, even that had a nice professional touch.
Of course, Sourav didn’t forget to collect a stump as souvenir. Rahul Dravid, Harbhajan Singh and Parthiv Patel, who must have learnt much by ‘keeping to top-bracket spinners on a wicket with bounce’, did likewise. The other two, with the microphones, went back to the TV producer’s cabin.
Later, speaking to The Telegraph, Sourav explained: “The emotions are the same after every win... It’s just that none of us expected it to come about so soon (less than an hour after lunch on the fourth day)... Moreover, two Tests remain.” Sourav acknowledged he was looking to, at best, being in an unassailable position by stumps. As for opposite number Carl Hooper, who had a nightmare of a 100th Test, he had been “hopeful” of staying afloat till the fifth morning.
Hooper and his boys will return to the Wankhede tomorrow, but for a workout. Sourav, now two victories from equalling Mohammed Azharuddin’s record of 14 (the highest by an Indian captain), left for Calcutta in the evening. It’s going to be a well-earned Puja break, ahead of the second Test, from Thursday.
While Sourav complimented his bowlers, especially speedster Zaheer Khan who has recast the body-language of our attack, Hooper was left compiling a list of what went wrong. It’s bound to be exhaustive and, clearly, somewhere at the top must be mention of the total lack of character.
Hooper and Co. seem confused about tackling Indian spinners and, until they get tougher in the mind, the high-fives by the Indians won’t cease. Having already collected eight and seven wickets, respectively, Harbhajan and Anil Kumble must be reviewing personal targets for this three-Test series.
Incidentally, Harbhajan’s second innings seven for 48 is the second best by any off-spinner against the West Indies. The top figures remain credited to former Australian captain Ian Johnson, who took seven for 44 in Georgetown, back in the mid-Fifties.
“Rhythm ka sawaal hai... Rhythm rehne se, bowling zaroor acchi ho gi... If I may add, support from the fielders is a must. In this Test, particularly today, everybody was brilliant. Naye wicketkeeper ne bhi bahut acchi 'keeping kari,” Harbhajan remarked.
Harbhajan’s mood, though, got soured when he lost his India cap while interacting with the media. Amid the chaos, a regular feature on such occasions in these parts, an outsider walked off with something held very dear by all national players.
The Man of the Match award, by the way, went to Virender Sehwag. It’s a first for this fantastic strokemaker, forever willing to shoulder any responsibility.