A comfortable win for the visitors

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

IT was a match which did not rise above mediocrity. It was a good pitch to bat on, but the West Indies lost the initiative through slackness in the batting approach. "We should've batted better. It was a good pitch," admitted the West Indies skipper Carl Hooper, who was understandably disappointed at the defeat.

India won by seven wickets and the margin was a true indication of the difference between the two teams at the Kensington Oval. The Indian approach was professional, as coach John Wright rightly described it, and there was reason to believe that the defeat in the Test series had jolted the Indian ranks.

Dinesh Mongia punishes Cameron Cuffy on his way to a memorable 74.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The team management made a few changes in the batting order and brought in Tinu Yohannan in place of Ashish Nehra for this match. Skipper Sourav Ganguly was keen that Yohannan got a look-in and the move paid off when the Kerala paceman, on his debut in one-day internationals, produced a tidy spell to make an impression.

The West Indians were on a high and the defeat must have shocked their supporters no doubt. The failure of the openers, thanks to Yohannan's tactical bowling, was a crucial factor. With Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul too falling cheaply, it was bound to become tough for the West Indies and it was left to Hooper to come up with a gritty innings.

Hooper and Ramnaresh Sarwan tried their best to make a fight of it, but the Indians did well to confront them with a collective effort. The bowlers were backed by some good fielding, especially by Mohammad Kaif, who made such a difference. Yuveraj Singh and Virender Sehwag made their contributions and came in for praise from Wright. The coach was pleased with the bowling of Yohannan and the fielding of Kaif and Yuveraj. He also made special mention of Dinesh Mongia, who won of Man of the Match award.

The Indian team management was satisfied with the overall performance of the team. The fact that Rahul Dravid recovered to keep fairly well was an encouraging factor for the team. And then the move of pushing Sachin Tendulkar down the order allowed the team to have a flexible batting order. It was an one-off arrangement because India was not batting first. "Tendulkar may open if we bat first. A lot depends on the situation," said Wright.

It was Wright who convinced Tendulkar to bat in the middle order when chasing. It was a move initiated in the team's interest. The team may have opted to field seven batsmen but then it was comfortable with the idea of playing just four bowlers. "We have options in the bowling department and it was possible because Dravid was keeping wickets," said Ganguly.

It was a decent debut for Yohannan. "I wanted him to do well," said Wright, who has always rated the Kerala paceman high. "He works very hard at the 'nets and is a sincere lad," remarked Wright.

Yohannan may have appeared nervous initially, but then it was a natural reaction for someone playing his first one-day international. That he excelled in a match overseas was good for Yohannan.

Debutant Tinu Yohannan is greeted by Yuveraj Singh after he had taken the wicket of Chris Gayle. The paceman had a great match with three wickets.-V. V. KRISHNAN

"I just aimed at sticking to the basics. I didn't try too much because there was something in the pitch. The surface was helping the bowlers and I knew that the ball was going to do its bit. I just concentrated on putting the ball in the right place," said Yohannan.

"I tried to bowl within myself. The team expected me to perform and I'm happy I could do that. I was unsure before the match but once I stepped on to the field I didn't feel any pressure. At the end of the day I was happy with the result," Yohannan was a pleased man indeed.

Ajit Agarkar conceded too many runs in his first spell, but recovered to check any West Indian resurgence late in the order even as Hooper gave a glowing account of his splendid form in the matches against India.

The West Indies had little chance of winning, after it posted just 186. The total was possible because of Hooper's knock and the support he got from Ramnaresh Sarwan. Their partnership was the lone bright spot in the West Indies innings but the lower half failed to capitalise on the good work these two did in the middle order.

India hardly faced any resistance in scaling the target. Ganguly and Sehwag gave a steady start and then Mongia took over to play an innings of character. "We didn't get our act together," conceded Hooper.

The home team had placed hopes on its bowlers but they lacked the inspiration to go flat out. There was reason to believe that the West Indies was yet to recover from the euphoria of the Test series win and was beaten by a team which played better cricket on that particular day at the Kensington Oval.

The scores:

West Indies: C. Gayle c Mongia b Yohannan 16; W. Hinds b Yohannan 15; R. Sarwan b Sehwag 44; B. Lara c Kaif b Harbhajan 5; C. Hooper (not out) 76; S. Chanderpaul (run out) 5; R. Hinds st. Dravid b Sehwag 3; R. Jacobs c Dravid b Yohannan 0; M. Dillon b Agarkar 2; C. Collymore lbw b Agarkar 1; C. Cuffy b Agarkar 0; Extras (lb-5, nb-1, w-13) 19. Total (in 44.5 overs) 186.

Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-45, 3-53, 4-140, 5-155, 6-162, 7-164, 8-182, 9-186.

Cameron Cuffy's stump goes cart-wheeling and the successful bowler is Ajit Agarkar.-V. V. KRISHNAN

India bowling: Yohannan 10-1-33-3, Zaheer 8-2-31-0, Agarkar 8.5-1-36-3, Harbhajan 7-0-22-1, Ganguly 3-0-20-0, Mongia 2-0-16-0, Sehwag 6-1-23-2.

India: S. Ganguly c Hooper b Gayle 41; V. Sehwag c Sarwan b Dillon 21; D. Mongia c Chanderpaul b R. Hinds 74; S. Tendulkar (not out) 34; R. Dravid (not out) 9. Extras (lb-2, nb-3, w-3) 8. Total (for three wkts. in 43.5 overs) 187.

Fall of wickets: 1-41, 2-109, 3-165.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-0-30-1, Cuffy 7-0-34-1, Collymore 6-0-28-0, Hooper 7-0-25-0, Gayle 8-0-34-1, R. Hinds 5.5-0-34-1.

A deserving award

WHEN he walked out to bat, Dinesh Mongia was nervous. "I was nervous initially because I knew I had to perform. The team had placed faith in me and I was not going to let down my mates," recalled Mongia. He concentrated hard and the result was a deserving Man of the Match reward for this Punjab batsman.

The 25-year-old Mongia has won his second successive Man of the Match award, having scored an unbeaten 159 against Zimbabwe the last team he batted in a one-day international. "I would rate this innings better because it came overseas. It gave me immense satisfaction because it came when it mattered to the team," said Mongia.

Mongia was tested as an opener in that home series against Zimbabwe but did not mind being shuffled in the batting order. "I have to grab my chances. I have to create a place for me. I'm prepared to bat at any slot as long as the team benefits from it," said Mongia, who made a fine 74 to play the key role in India's seven-wicket win.

It was tough no doubt. There was no match practice for Mongia on the tour except the three-day match at St. Lucia and then opportunities at the nets too were rare since he did not figure in selection for the Test matches. "I've to grab the chances that came my way and that's why I concentrated hard in this innings," said Mongia.

It helps him to play positively. "I look at positive things when I bat and I believe in playing cricketing shots whatever be the situation. It's good as long as you play good cricketing shots. I like to be positive because that's the way I've always been."

Mongia had struggled against Zimbabwe at home before that big knock gave a boost to his career. He went on a tour to Sri Lanka but failed to gain a place in the Test matches and missed the tour to South Africa despite a decent show in the Irani Cup where he hit 125 and 90 not out.

But Mongia continued to strive. On this tour, he worked hard on his game and fitness. "I'm happy the way things have shaped," he said.

Mongia recalled a piece of advice from Sachin Tendulkar that acted as motivation for him. "He told me to work hard because it does pay in the end," said Mongia. Tendulkar was obviously a pleased man for Mongia had not let him down.