| Harbhajan Singh appeals successfully against Cameron Cuffy at the Wankhede in Mumbai on Saturday. The off-spinner finished with a match haul of eight for 85. (AFP)
Mumbai, Oct. 12: In looking ahead, vanquished captain Carl Hooper is actually falling back on the past. Only, given the Indians’ brutally efficient showing at the Wankhede, drawing comfort from the 2-1 result at home earlier this year alone won’t do.
After being beaten black-and-blue in the first of three Tests for the Exide Cup — incidentally, the West Indies’ maiden loss by an innings to India — that too with a day and half to spare, Hooper talked about the fine recovery in Barbados and Jamaica after the Port-of-Spain defeat. “Even after that loss, we were written off... But, as everybody knows, we recovered to win the series. So...”
Certainly all credit to the West Indies. Yet, it’s inconceivable that Sourav Ganguly’s team will make the same mistakes. Moreover, the visitors never quite showed they wished to make a game of the Test here. Hooper, of course, spoke of “quickly putting this loss” behind them but, really, that will probably be easier said than done.
Beginning Day IV on 91 for one, the West Indies’ capitulation was complete less than an hour after lunch, with Harbhajan Singh returning best figures for the innings (seven for 48) and match (eight for 85). Indeed, Harbhajan claimed six of the nine wickets that fell today, with Anil Kumble getting the others. The latter finished the Test with seven for 101.
[Harbhajan’s second innings effort has put him at par with Ian Botham. Till this afternoon, the former England allrounder alone had best figures at the Wankhede. Botham’s seven for 48 was registered in the second innings of the 1979-80 Jubilee Test.]
The relaid wicket did afford some turn — occasionally prodigious — and much bounce, but never was it even near unplayable. Hooper acknowledged as much: “The track isn’t to be faulted... We didn’t apply ourselves.” Coach Roger Harper took much the same line. If anything, he was more blunt: “Getting 157 and 188 isn’t ever going to be good enough at the highest level.”
Despite the cloud cover, Kumble and Harbhajan bowled all but one over of the day, and Sourav’s faith paid off. For a quick finish, it was essential that catches be held. Towards that end, but for a Sanjay Bangar-Kumble mix-up, which luckily didn’t prove costly, the Indians didn’t let go anything. Sourav himself set a fine example.
The spinners’ rich harvest notwithstanding, it’s the Zaheer Khan spell on the third afternoon (which fetched three wickets), after lunch, that confirmed only India could win this Test. Fittingly, Sourav complimented his spearhead. “That one spell made the biggest difference,” the captain pointed out, even as he had kind words for Jawagal Srinath, who wasn’t anywhere close to being incisive.
To return to the rout, first to go was Chris Gayle, out to an expansive drive within 20 minutes. As it turned out, that one dismissal opened the floodgates. Ramnaresh Sarwan, Hooper... The list of guest appearances was embarrassingly long. Only Shivnarine ‘Grafter’ Chanderpaul didn’t give anything away and, even if he didn’t top score as in the first innings, the Sarwans and Ryan Hinds should draw a lesson from his unbeaten 32.
That Hooper (inarguably the best player of spin in the current side) again couldn’t lead from the front definitely hurt the West Indies. The captain, however, didn’t agree his dismissal in innings No. 1 (via a pull) was a turning point. “It’s a team sport, with 11 players... Why pick on one or two individuals'” he countered.
Even though Hooper failed in both innings, Harbhajan, for one, certainly sees him as the top threat. “Getting him early will always be getting a big wicket early,” is how he put it.
Significantly, the Man of the Match award went to Virender Sehwag, for his career-best 147 in the only Indian innings. “Khushi hai... Team ka jeetna hi sabse jyada mayne rakhta hai... I’m happy... In fact, I’m very happy,” Sehwag told The Telegraph. Used to being adjudged MoM in the one-dayers, he has now ‘opened’ his Test account.
The second Test gets underway in Chennai on October 17.