A Caribbean runfest

K. C. VIJAYA KUMAR

BRIAN LARA has an intimidating aura and when he opted out of the Indian tour following a bout of illness during the ICC Champions Trophy at Sri Lanka, the West Indies were considered fit only for the scrap heap. And understandably, queries before the tour game between the West Indies and the Board President's XI at Bangalore (October 4 to 6), probed Lara's absence.

Opener Wavell Hinds set the ball rolling for the West Indian domination with a hard-hit century.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The three-day game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium however gifted runs and hope to the Caribbeans. Their batting fired in the drawn encounter and now when skipper Carl Hooper says that his men "might surprise quite a few people", the cynicism that fringed the team has started to fade. And it was an apt tribute to the Windies batting that Lara never figured in the post-match media briefing.

In a match that turned out to be a feel-good exercise for the visitors, Hooper's men posted a first innings score of 606 for four with Ramnaresh Sarwan (140) and Wavell Hinds (147) leading the scroll of batting honours. It was a high-wattage riposte to the Board Presidents' 275 for eight declared, that hinged on Dinesh Mongia's unbeaten 101.

Visiting batsmen, despite the recurring tale of dustbowls and sinister spinners, have often nursed their self-esteem with a pile of runs in India. Mike Gatting, Dean Jones and a host of others revived their careers here and the tradition was kept alive as openers - the left-handed combine of Wavell Hinds and Chris Gayle (62) - carved an ineffective Board President's attack on a placid pitch.

Ramnaresh Sarwan drives Amit Mishra. He was all grace during his knock of 140.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The batting stage brimming with Hinds' powerful shots got a delicate backdrop as Ramnaresh Sarwan walked in after Gayle bent on banishing Sarandeep past mid-wicket, succumbed. An absent Test century amidst 13 fifties cannot justify Sarwan's potential. But at Bangalore, the diminutive Guyanese batsman served a delectable weekend fare that hinted at more headlines in the future.

On a day when Hinds (147, 285m, 187b, 17x4, 4x6) was busy with forthright methods, Sarwan (140, 442m, 340b, 18x4, 1x6) caressed and killed. Dancing down the track to choke the spinners, rocking back to cut and pull the seamers, playing forward with a bat as broad as a barn door, Sarwan gave enough signs that he will figure high on the hitlist of messrs Anil Kumble and Co. in the Tests.

The Windies' smiles kept getting broader as the match meandered into the archives but a lone sore spot was the manner in which they stretched their first innings into the final day. Sarwan pocketed his century before retiring to the pavilion, while the support crew - Hooper (67), Ryan Hinds (74 retired hurt) and Ridley Jacobs (50 not out) - also got enough runs to fancy a rearguard action against the Indians in the Tests at Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

Dinesh Mongia cracked a century for the home team. Here he punishes Pedro Collins.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The Board President's XI bowlers toiled without a clue with Murali Kartik (two for 92) showing a brave front despite the hoicks past mid-wicket by Hinds. Kartik, perhaps the finest among the current crop of left-arm spinners in the country, is sadly still awaiting a National recall. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who was selected in the Test squad, bowled well when Hinds and Sarwan played out their 150-run second wicket partnership but lost his nerve when Hooper began hoisting sixers past the sight screen. Off-spinner Sarandeep is capable of better fare and among the seamers, Balaji was restrictive, while Tinu is yet to get rid of the rust accumulated by accompanying the drinks trolley in the West Indies and England.

Earlier, the batting guns were mute on the opening day as the Board President's XI openers - southpaw Gautam Gambhir and Sanjay Bangar - dallied with Mervyn Dillon's off-stump teasers and perished. The middle-order staged a recovery through captain Mohammed Kaif and Hemang Badani (67) while left-arm seamer Pedro Collins and rookie fast bowler Jermaine Lawson struggled with their line. Kaif, however, swatted Hooper straight to point and it was left to the two southpaws - Badani and Dinesh Mongia - to inject life into the scoreboard.

Badani, battling hard for a comeback, has been a regular at the Chinnaswamy Stadium premises. He was part of the National Fringe Players camp at the National Cricket Academy recently and his discipline and approach had impressed coach Lalchand Rajput.

Carl Hooper is snapped up by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel off Murali Kartik.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

"He worked really hard," Rajput said. The hard work nearly paid off and Badani seemed on course for a century. A glide off Lawson that guided the ball in a delicate arc past thirdman, hinted at more deft brushes with style until Badani edged Collins on to his stumps.

The stage was set for Dinesh Mongia to find his runs that went missing at Colombo during the ICC Champions Trophy. The Punjab player based his innings initially on the strongest foundation any batsman can possess - patience. He tucked the ball homing on to his legs for the singles and whetted his appetite with on-side runs unlike southpaws who traditionally get their desserts on the off-side leaving commentators searching for apt synonyms for the word 'grace'. Grit was displayed in adequate measure by Mongia's century (101 not out, 186m, 149b, 12x4, 1x6). It also helped that the Windies attack now lacks the fire when a Holding or a Marshall steamed in, in the 1970s and 80s.

Mongia waded into Nagamootoo's leg-breaks and Hooper's gentle off-spin and promised more until a suspect tail left Kaif with the only option of declaring the innings. And then it turned out to be two long days on the field while the Carribeans filled their batting souls with iron before heading for the first Test at Mumbai.

The scores:

Board President's XI 275 for eight decl. (Hemang Badani 67, Mohammed Kaif 40, Dinesh Mongia 101 not out) drew with West Indies 606 for four (Chris Gayle 62, Wavell Hinds 147, Ramnaresh Sarwan 140 (retired), Shivnarine Chanderpaul 25, Carl Hooper 67, Ryan Hinds 74 (retired hurt), Ridley Jacobs 50 not out).