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Sachin, Laxman deny WI

Calcutta: Well into his third year as India captain, Sourav Ganguly is aware that only the present counts. And, so, acted conventionally at the Eden Sunday.

Last season, after all, he was quite peeved when just about everybody kept talking of England’s fine (defensive) showing in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, quite forgetting India’s emphatic win in Mohali.

More than anything else, that made Sourav realise the present moment alone is king. Accordingly, nothing risky was attempted on the fifth day of the final Test for the Exide Cup.

Indeed, had the West Indies pulled off the unimaginable, few would have recalled that India won the series in Chennai itself. The attention would all have been on the West Indies-driven present.

As it turned out, with India continuing to bat till the fifth mandatory over, the Test ended indecisively — the call-off being mutual. Sachin Tendulkar pocketed yet another MoM award, while Harbhajan Singh was adjudged the MoS.

“Though we were well placed at lunch (299 for four, effectively ahead by 160), we lost Sachin soon after resumption and, realistically, wouldn’t have had time to force a result,” explained Sourav.

In fact, given that India were 87 for four Saturday afternoon, Sourav wasn’t disappointed at not being able to push for an unprecedented 3-0 sweep.

Actually, the record (214-run) fifth-wicket partnership between Sachin and V.V.S. Laxman frustrated the West Indies’ hopes, or else…

Sachin’s 176 (419 minutes, 299 balls, 26x4) did make the biggest difference, but no less significant was Laxman’s unbeaten 154 (531 minutes, 396 deliveries, 17x4) — his first fifty-plus score at home since 75 in the first innings in Ahmedabad last season, versus England.

Happy at finally scripting a substantial innings, within the country, Laxman told The Telegraph: “One had to hang in… Then, after the initial phase, I took it session-by-session… I’m glad I managed an innings which had a bearing on the outcome…”

Eden connection

Clearly, with two of his four hundreds being registered here, Laxman doesn’t need to dig deep for inspiration. And, yet again, showed he can quickly tailor his game to suit the demands. It wasn’t all wristy flair.

Laxman did have a let-off, in the 80s (thanks to Shivnarine Chanderpaul), but it will be unfair to focus on that one aberration. In any case, it wasn’t the easiest of chances.

Looking ahead, Laxman added: “With the one-day series just days away, this knock couldn’t have been better timed… For one, it has enhanced my confidence…”

Besides the Sachin-Laxman association, which lasted over five hours, India were well served by gutsy Parthiv Patel and Harbhajan. The latter fired a cavalier 26, which included two fours and as many sixes in a single Ramnaresh Sarwan over.

From the overnight 195 for four, Sachin and Laxman took to lunch on 299.

Though the first-over assault on Carl Hooper (11 runs) wasn’t exactly matched, remaining unseparated was itself a huge plus.

Moreover, often, the West Indies’ line of attack left much to be desired.

Many expected an all-out assault, after the break, but Sachin’s rather quick exit meant a safe-than-be-sorry approach would take precedence.

It did — and, given the conditions, rightly so. Significantly, despite being slow and low, the wicket wasn’t ever unplayable.

With a clutch of positives from the series, Sourav has reason to be pleased. Incidentally, he made special mention of Patel. “He keeps improving,” the captain pointed out.

Hooper, who had a miserable three Tests, acknowledged that the basics need to be worked upon. The last word, though, was his when he spoke of a draw being better than a 0-3 annihilation.

Sachin (300) and Chanderpaul (260) finished as the No. 1 rungetters, while Harbhajan (20) and Mervyn Dillon (11) emerged the most successful bowlers.

The teams leave for Jamshedpur (via Ranchi) Monday morning.

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