The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Defeat just the shock Indians needed

If India won the first one-day International at Jamshedpur they would have had to thank the crowd more than anything else. It was the crowd that started fires and threw bottles and rubbish on the field and forced the Match Referee to take the players off the field with the West Indies in full swing and needing eleven runs from 18 balls with six wickets in hand.

When play resumed after 10 minutes the light had faded considerably and, more crucially, the interruption had disturbed the West Indian batsmen’s rhythm. In pressure situations this West Indies team is known to play scatter cricket and the manner of Chanderpaul and Jacob’s dismissals did indicate that with more deliveries to come than runs required they had left their thinking caps behind in the dressing room. It is amazing how even experienced players tend to do silly things in pressure cooker situations and West Indies are not the only team to do so. It was Sarwan’s cool that salvaged the situation.

The Board of Cricket for Control in India must seriously start thinking of not only banning venues where there is crowd disturbance but also heavily fining the staging Association for not ensuring proper conduct of the match.

Crowds that cannot accept an Indian defeat should get no cricket whatsoever except what they see on TV or hear on radio.

If there are a couple of pitches in India somewhat similar to the ones in South Africa they are at Jamshedpur and Mohali. The bowlers’ inability to defend a formidable total like 284 on this pitch should open the eyes of those who run Indian cricket to what awaits them in South Africa. If they go by the performance on the dust tracks to follow this one they will only be deluding themselves for there are no turning pitches in South Africa and they will, once again, end up backing players who have been proven failures on previous trips to South Africa.

India’s total was built on a brisk start by Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly. The manner of Sehwag’s dismissal — to a bouncer for the second consecutive time — will have brought home to the West Indies the line of attack they should adopt even on the lifeless pitches in India.

It isn’t just Sehwag, but not too many Indian batsmen play the hook or pull shot well but pitch anything up to them and it will disappear to the boundary. Agarkar’s promotion worked as he seems to have put a lot of thought into his batting and is playing straighter and not poking at deliveries outside the off stump. Even in limited overs cricket it pays to leave good balls alone when the ball is new and the slips are in position.

He missed out on a century in trying to play a drive too many in spite of getting a reprieve a couple of deliveries earlier playing a similar stand up shot. It was his partnerships with Laxman and Dravid that gave Kaif the platform to play some audaciously breathtaking shots. It was hard to understand debutant Yadav being promoted ahead of Kaif and India lost momentum there and so missed out on a possible dozen more runs. To Yadav’s credit he didn’t dawdle much at the crease. However, he would have been better served if he had shown the gumption to open the batting and get good practice against the West Indies when Ranji Champions Railways played them in a three day game between the second and third Test. He dropped himself to number seven in that game and two days after that opened the batting for the same team against Rest of India and scored a century.

The man who got a century opening the batting against the West Indies, Shreyas Khanolkar was dropped to number seven in the Irani Trophy that followed his century. But then that’s Indian cricket for you.

The West Indies victory is just the shock that Indian cricket needed for it was looking like going into the complacent mode. The next matches are on turning pitches and we have seen that it is a different ball game then.

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