The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian openers took it away again

The Indian openers, for two Tests running, have taken it away from us. Sanjay Bangar is a fighter, a resolute character and a stodgy opener whose role is clearly defined to bat for as long as possible. Sehwag’s role on the other hand is to attack the opponents as early as possible. They make bowlers adjust to two extremes.

It is too early to say if Sehwag is a great cricketer in the making. But he has the potential to be one. It is one thing to possess the ability to destroy the bowlers.

It is quite another matter when that skill and hand-eye co-ordination is backed by a player’s belief to carry it through. Sehwag has that confidence aplenty.

Ironically, I am not too disappointed at the way we bowled to him. We could have got him in the 70s in Mumbai and quite early in this Test too. We watched him in Sri Lanka and made a few notes. But we didn’t grab the chances which came our way.

However, our reasons for defeat go far beyond these two Indian openers. We have been very ordinary with the bat in this series. The present bunch is among the best cricketers we have in the Caribbean islands but they just can’t seem to perform abroad. They need to respond better to pressure. Be it lift or turn and bounce, they come unstuck on foreign soil.

It is my fourth series abroad as captain and I have watched it happen too often. Usually it is one bowler who poses most questions. Against Pakistan, it was Shoaib Akhtar who dominated us. It was (Muttiah) Muralidharan’s turn when we played against Sri Lanka. Now Harbhajan (Singh) has got a skinful of our scalps.

We sat down and discussed the dismissals. We have looked at our shot selection. But any amount of technical input could only serve a limited purpose. On the field, a player has to handle issues himself. He can’t turn to somebody else.

Our batting on the first day was a case in point. A few of us were too conscious to hold on to our wickets and spend some time at the crease.

Thus, we batted too slowly. In the second innings, a few of us were too aggressive for our own good. We seem to go from one extreme to another. There is a need to strike the right balance.

Ramnaresh Sarwan looked good for his maiden hundred in this Test. He began the final day in the 60s and afresh and I thought it was his day. In the past, he might have been too confident once past fifty.

But here he was being forced to concentrate by the combined pack of Harbhajan and (Anil) Kumble and Zaheer (Khan) and (Jawagal) Srinath. Still he fell short of a landmark he looks good for everytime he walks to the crease.

I learnt Zaheer had a plan to get me out on a short ball in Mumbai. When I went to bat against him in this Test, there were a few areas I was conscious of while facing to him. But getting caught in the covers was certainly not one of them. In Test cricket, you have to step ahead of your opponent to succeed. Full marks to Zaheer.

I still believe we had our moments in this Test. But we shot ourselves in the foot by dropping so many catches.

Only if we could have restricted India in the first innings and set a target of 250-275 in the end. We also allowed Harbhajan and others to get away with some cheap runs on the third morning. In Test cricket, such moments could have a telling effect.

I am tired of being told of history and a rare series defeat and statistics of similar kind. In modern times you win some and lose some games.

But it is the manner in which you go down which hurts. One of the reasons I came back to international cricket was to help West Indies cricket go forward. The world of cricket has begun to lose respect in us. It is not good for us or for that matter for the game in general.

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