Kingston:Sponsors Digicel’s promotional ‘Cricket' It’s a West Indian thing’ received a terrific boost when the hosts scripted a billion watts’ music generating one-run win in the second ODI, at Sabina Park, on Saturday.
That ended Team India’s run of (17) successful chases and made it 1-1 in the five-match series. It was almost as close as on Thursday, with victory coming on the third-last ball. It confirmed that one-day cricket indeed is all about making the most of resources within the 100 overs.
By defending 198, the West Indies made Greg Chappell eat his words on a day he completed one year as coach. After India took a 1-0 lead, he’d said the hosts had “forgotten to win... Had they been having little more success, they would have made it tougher...”
Credit to Brian Lara and his team, but the Indians batted very poorly. Whether the target is 299 or 199, a solid start is imperative. The visitors struggled from the first over ' a maiden from Fidel Edwards to captain Rahul Dravid ' and Yuvraj Singh’s brilliant 93 (121 balls, 8x4, 1x6) became futile.
“The match could have gone the other way... God smiled on us, but we’ve got to keep improving,” Lara remarked emotionally after his team completed a lap of honour in front of a frenzied crowd. It was as if the West Indies had regained the World Cup and some actually had tears of joy.
While Ramnaresh Sarwan received the MoM award for his under-pressure unbeaten 98 (138 balls, 7x4, 1x6), quick Dwayne Bravo is the one who pulled it off. But for his slower one, Yuvraj could have forced at least a tie. The last over began with India requiring 11.
Lara admitted he’d resigned himself to hoping for no more than a tie when Bravo executed to perfection a suggestion from senior pro Chris Gayle, who’d been wonderful with his brand of spin. Lara didn’t have to reveal who suggested what, but did.
“It’s a team effort and each one contributed... Bravo himself had done nothing till he bowled that slower one... It’s neither a big nor a huge win, it’s an important one, but we didn’t bat well... From 250-plus in 45 overs the other day to under 200 in 50... That’s not good batting,” he pointed out.
Asked to comment on Chappell’s strong observation, Lara said: “We’d been getting into winning positions, but were giving it away... Today, we didn’t relax and didn’t throw the opportunity... Of course, I would like us to win easier.”
The West Indies’ intensity on the field had been exceptional, contributing no doubt to a much-improved performance both in the air and on the ground.
Dravid’s body language and his reaction, by the way, didn’t suggest his team had taken a killer punch. “Defeats hurt, but worrying doesn’t help... The (record) run probably had to end somewhere... We aren’t disheartened and we’re not going to panic...
“We got the combination right (picking Ramesh Powar), but lacked execution... We didn’t chase cleverly and there’s lots to play for in the next three matches... Despite the slowness of the wicket, it was a 235-240 one and the bowlers on both sides did a great job.”
Dravid praised Yuvraj in the appropriate manner: “He has taken his batting to another level and played so many good innings in the past few months that it’s difficult placing this one in a category... The quality of Yuvraj’s innings deserved that he finish it off... He almost did...”
Defending the move to again send Irfan Pathan at No.3, Dravid asked for “patience.” Then, backing Mahendra Singh Dhoni, he emphasised the dressing room “hadn’t” put him under pressure. “Dhoni has an able head on his shoulders... If there’s pressure, it’s from the Media, not within...”
The somewhat smaller targets do pose a problem of pacing, but good teams are expected to overcome hiccups. Certainly one ranked in the top three. Chappell told The Telegraph there were “lessons to learn” and that the early realisation would be handy.
Meanwhile, Sarwan (who was in the running to succeed Shivnarine Chanderpaul) insisted he “wouldn’t mind” remaining unbeaten on 98 as long as the West Indies kept winning. “We’ve got such a legacy, but haven’t been doing well in recent years... It hurts and my goal is to help restore former glory.”
Lara, who is looking at his job “holistically,” has much the same agenda. For now, prepare for a cracker at St Kitts, on Tuesday.
Footnote: Marlon Samuels may have helped the West Indies’ cause in a big way (two for 30), but his action is being “monitored” by the men who matter.