| A distraught Rahul Dravid in Vijayawada Sunday
Vijayawada: At his next thanksgiving-session, Carl Hooper will have to remember Rev. Wesley Hall and Pedro Collins.
Indeed, had the West Indies Cricket Board chief not intervened, Marlon Samuels would have been at home, trying to make the most of having been disciplined by the team management. Just as significant, had Collins not woken up with a sore back Sunday, Jermaine Lawson wouldn’t have played the decider at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.
Well, had both not been around, it’s unlikely that the TVS Cup would have settled in Hooper’s hands. Both, after all, scripted exceptional performances — especially the 21-year-old Samuels. The latter, in fact, produced a never-to-be-forgotten unbeaten 108 (10x4, 5x6, 74 deliveries), with his second fifty coming off a mere 23 balls!
While the perfectly behaved locals will require a quickly soothing balm to recover from India’s crushing 135-run defeat, in time, they will surely treasure having witnessed an incredible innings. That, too, in Vijayawada’s debut game.
Samuels hardly improvised, relying on conventional shots to clobber the Indians. Be it the front foot or back, on or off side, he smacked everything bang in the middle. “Haven’t seen a better one-day knock,” is how Hooper saluted him, while India’s stand-in captain, Rahul Dravid, termed it as “unbelievable.”
As for MoM Samuels, he chose to thank Steve Waugh by promptly reaching for the red handkerchief (given to him by the sport’s Elder Statesman last year) on getting to his maiden ODI hundred. As a good luck charm, it worked wonders. “I played to my strength, which is playing straight,” Samuels pointed out.
Thanks to Samuels and his blazing 109-run partnership for the fifth-wicket with Ricardo Powell, the West Indies creamed as many as 121 off the last ten overs, with an unbelievable 69 coming in the last five. The 47th over, by senior pro Jawagal Srinath, cost 21 and, from then on, it was a losing cause for India.
Really, the path for the visitors to ‘avenge’ their Test series defeat became clear. “Yes, a bit of pride has returned,” acknowledged an emotional Hooper, adding he “hoped” the good run would continue till the February-March World Cup and that Samuels’ effort augured well.
Lawson, who was sent home after the Test series and recalled once Ryan Hinds got injured in the ODIs, came into the picture in session No.2, when India needed 316 to keep intact their 2002 record of not losing either a bilateral series or a tournament.
Actually, in a space of just 27 deliveries, Lawson didn’t even allow the home team’s challenge to take off. Four wickets in that opening spell, often very fast and pretty furious, placed India on the mat straightaway.
Unleashing the shock treatment came easy to the 20-year-old.
“Obviously, Lawson’s hat is now in the World Cup-ring... He got a mere 40 minutes to prepare and, more than anything else, showed his hunger to succeed,” remarked Hooper, who won’t be travelling to Bangladesh with his team. Instead, he is heading to Adelaide for knee surgery.
Dravid, who won the toss and opted for the tried-and-tested formula of chasing, had little hesitation admitting the West Indies were much superior in what became the finale. “We were outplayed, but I’m satisfied with the boys’ effort. Everyone tried his hardest yet, as it turned out, it wasn’t our day... The last ten overs did make the biggest difference.”
Asked by The Telegraph whether the defeat (his first in four matches as captain) would hurt for quite some time, Dravid replied: “Of course it’s very disappointing, but I’ve become used to switching on and off... Therefore, the loss should soon be out of my system. With the New Zealand tour only days away, it’s time to look forward.”
Later, interacting with the Media, Dravid spoke of the 3-4 loss being a “good” eye-opener. “There are lessons to be learnt and one has to keep working hard... Having said that, (Sanjay) Bangar made excellent use of the opportunities, while Ajit (Agarkar) and (Murali) Kartik also had their moments...”
One top lesson, besides the routine one about our indifferent bowling, is that Virender Sehwag must be consistent. Just one hundred and one fifty-plus score won’t ever suffice in a seven-game series.
Though the ask was more than stiff, it’s a fact that the in-form Dravid’s own dismissal, to one of the most stunning catches of the year (by Ramnaresh Sarwan), confirmed the day belonged to the visitors.
For the record, while the law of averages tripped Chris Gayle, who could add five to his series tally of 450, he still was adjudged Man of the Series. Sarwan, who registered another superb innings to cross the 400-mark, narrowly missed out. Both, however, will be carrying the West Indies’ hopes for some years to come.
And, yes, there’s one Marlon Samuels.
n Match report on Page 18