| Dravid: The key player
It has been a happy end to a nightmarish start for the West Indies team to end their Indian tour by winning the one-day series after going down in the Test matches.
I must disappoint you in this final piece of mine. I have absolutely nothing to add to the toss controversy thrown in the air by my former teammate Michael Holding. His comments are not even worth a reaction. Toss is a matter between the two captains and the match referee and they donít have any confusion on the issue. The rest is all unnecessary frills.
It was fitting we won because Indians were generally doing the catching up in this long and exhausting one-day series. Our bowlers were able to exert far more pressure than it was the case with them. Even in Jodhpur where India won and set up a tantalising climax, we nearly got through their deep batting line-up. We kept our neck in front and never conceded the lead in this series. It is hard to dispute which was the better team overall.
Two cricketers played a key role in the final game for our outstanding win. Marlon Samuels with the bat and Jermaine Lawson with the ball. Samuels played one of the best knocks I have seen in one-day cricket. He batted at a different pace till his half century and then shifted quite a few gears in the closing overs. We scored nearly 100-120 in the final 10 overs and his share in it was 70-80 runs. It explains our dramatic climb in the scoring chart.
Lawson bowled with rare aggression and though drafted late in the one-day series he didnít suffer from lack of confidence or self-belief. He comes at you hard and thatís the key to his approach. He cast aside any negative thoughts about the batting-friendly pitches and was willing to take his chances.
As I mention the two, I remember Samuels taking his gloves off and pulling something off his pocket after he reached his hundred. I was at the other end and failed to ask him the significance of it. It could have been a friendly challenge with a mate in the dressing room or a secret wish he must have made for a hundred.
The other thing vivid is the dismissal of left-handed Dinesh Mongia by Lawson. Ridley Jacobs, behind the stumps, later told me it was a yorker pitched on the middle stump which swung late to take the off-stick out of the ground. It baffled the opener and put Lawson on a cruise.
Rahul Dravid rightly said in the end that losing so many wickets early in the innings was the key to Indiaís failure in the final game. It did become easy for us after we cleaned up the first four, which included Dravid himself. Sehwag was caught by me, a straightforward though quick chance in the slips and Laxman fished a catch to wicketkeeper. None was so important as Dravidís who has been the key player in this series. Two men sitting in the dressing room couldnít hold back their glee on Dravidís dismissal and they were coach Roger Harper and chief selector Viv Richards. The two were once part of mighty West Indians of the 80s and a winnerís attitude comes easy to them. Viv might have retired but now has a pivotal role in improving the lot of Caribbean cricket.
The tour started with everyone suggesting that it was left to experienced batters like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and a certain Carl Hooper to show the way to the younger set. By the end of tour, the youngsters were steaming in and delivering goods consistently.
Chris Gayle made three hundreds, Samuels had one and Ramnaresh Sarwan got 80s aplenty. They have made rapid strides and were able to forge quite a few three-figure partnerships. This is the best lot of young cricketers in the Caribbean and they are now making themselves count. Murali Kartik, the new face in the team had excellent first three games but he copped a fair stick in the final game. Such is the nature of one-day cricket that batters sooner or later will have their measure. After none for 40s and 3 for 30s, the young left-arm spinner would not be too pleased with the final match.
I am now off to Australia for an operation but should be back for the World Cup. Cameron Cuffy had a similar surgery and he was up on his feet and playing within five weeks.
And he was a bowler. This tour was personally disappointing for me but there is a fresh support from younger guys and it is impressive.