Gem of an innings

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

THE Indians were ambushed by an inspired opposition. "We're a better one-day side," the West Indies skipper Carl Hooper had remarked on the eve of the match. His men proved it in a remarkable manner with Ramnaresh Sarwan playing the innings of his life.

It is victory for the West Indies as Ramnaresh Sarwan smashes a boundary off Ajit Agarkar's last ball in the 50th over.-V. V. KRISHNAN

It was a stunning finish, just the kind the paying public would expect in a limited overs match. But the contest was marred by some unruly incidents in the galleries with the image of Jamshedpur as a venue for international fixtures taking a dip.

The sight of players leaving the field was very upsetting for the organisers, who had worked hard to provide the best of facilities to the teams. But the security aspect was left in the hands of the police, who showed that they were incompetent to handle such situations. The villain in the entire episode was not just the section of the crowd, which threw missiles and bottles, but also the policemen who watched the game from their positions, firmly glued to their seats even as the game came to a standstill. It was a disgraceful act and a blot on Indian cricket, known for poor crowd behaviour in most parts of the country with the exception of Chennai, which has been an example of exemplary cricket culture.

Wavell Hinds laid the foundation for his team's victory with a stroke-filled 93. Here he is poised to sweep Harbhajan Singh.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The first match of the one-day series saw the West Indies regroup itself and come back strongly to register one of its finest victories. Any last-ball finish has to be extraordinary but this one was special since the West Indies had to battle hard. The conditions had conspired against the visiting side, which was cruising at one point before the stoppage broke the momentum.

''It was hard no doubt. We lost the rhythm after the game was stopped but Sarwan played a fantastic innings. I think we batted really well and I would've been happier with some better stuff from the bowlers. But there are no complaints. It was great to win the game," said Hooper.

The Indians had set a stiff target. "It was a winning total," remarked Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly. "It was quite gettable," observed Hooper. And the fascinating contest developed into a thriller from the time West Indies took the right course through Wavell Hinds and Marlon Samuels.

Ajit Agarkar, who was promoted in the batting order, lifts Mahendra Nagamootoo for a six during his impressive 95.-V. V. KRISHNAN

India had been well served by Ajit Agarkar, who was promoted to number three, an experiment by the team management. "He has the potential to bat well and that was the reason for us to try Ajit at number three," explained Ganguly. Agarkar cannot be termed as a pinch-hitter because he batted sensibly and grabbed the chance, which should see him play bigger roles in the scheme of things.

Agarkar showed the way after Virender Sehwag and Ganguly failed to strike it big. A healthy partnership with V. V. S. Laxman saw Agarkar blossom into an attacking batsman and it was indeed a pleasure to watch him come good. "I've worked hard on my batting," said Agarkar. It reflected in his strokeful innings, which gave India the reason to believe it could go one up in the series.

The Indian team backed itself to win the match. But so did the West Indies, thanks to the collective effort. Hinds played an outstanding innings and, in the company of Samuels, laid the foundation for his team's victory. The failure of the Indian spinners was a big drawback as Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were clobbered by the West Indians who adopted the best way to tackle the bowling - aggression.

Ridley Jacobs is run out by Agarkar.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Once faced with the challenge from the batsmen, the Indian bowlers lost direction, especially the spinners. Harbhajan and Kumble conceded too many boundaries and setting a field became increasingly difficult for Ganguly. Sehwag happened to be the best bowler for India and he bowled within his limitations. Kumble and Harbhajan tried to alter their line and in the process bowled faster. It suited the West Indians who picked the runs with ease and maintained the pace to stay on course.

Even as Hinds and Samuels left the scene with the target far away, Sarwan took up the task earnestly. He paced his knock brilliantly and, in the company of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, gave the Indian bowlers a tough time.

Virender Sehwag is about to be caught by the bowler Vasbert Drakes.-V. V. KRISHNAN

West Indies was cruising when trouble from the stands halted the game. At 271 for four, the West Indies was just 13 runs away from the target. The asking rate too was easy with 18 balls left but the break took its toll.

It was to India's credit that the team returned to finish the match. The Match Referee, Mike Procter, appreciated the Indian team's gesture even as Ganguly believed his team had a chance. The opening came through a poor stroke from Chanderpaul. And then Ridley Jacobs batted like a novice and suddenly India seemed to be in the driver's seat. It was left to Sarwan to give the finishing touch to his outstanding innings. Three runs off the last ball was a tough ask and the fading light added to the challenge. Sarwan did not let the side down and produced a sensational stroke - a cover-driven boundary - to seal a famous victory.

Marlon Samuels, who gave good company to Hinds, is bowled by Kumble for 51. This was Kumble's 300th wicket in one-day internationals.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The scores:

India: V. Sehwag c and b Drakes 28; S. Ganguly b Collins 16; A. Agarkar c Gayle b Collins 95; V. V. S. Laxman b Nagamootoo 47; R. Dravid (not out) 46; Yuveraj Singh c Gayle b Hooper 4; J. P. Yadav b Dillon 0; M. Kaif (not out) 31. Extras (b-4, lb-6, nb-1, w-5) 16. Total (for six wkts in 50 overs ) 283.

Fall of wickets: 1-43, 2-49, 3-147, 4-222, 5-235, 6-236.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-0-64-1, Collins 10-1-40-2, Drakes 10-1-62-1, Hooper 10-2-46-1, Nagamootoo 8-0-45-1, Gayle 2-0-16-0.

West Indies: W. Hinds c Dravid b Nehra 93; C. Gayle c Yadav b Agarkar 7; M. Samuels b Kumble 51; R. Sarwan (not out) 83; C. Hooper c Yadav b Sehwag 4; S. Chanderpaul c Ganguly b Nehra 23; R. Jacobs (run out) 0; M. Nagamootoo (not out) 1. Extras (b-2, lb-5, w-16) 23. Total (for six wkts in 50 overs) 285.

Fall of wickets: 1-28, 2-114, 3-201, 4-206, 5-277, 6-279.

India bowling: Nehra 9-0-50-2, Agarkar 9-1-42-1, Yadav 4-0-22-0, Harbhajan 9-0-68-0, Kumble 7-0-48-1, Sehwag 10-0-37-1, Yuveraj 2-0-11-0.

IN the West Indies, they rate Ramnaresh Sarwan as an outstanding talent after Brian Lara. And for good reasons too. The little Guyanese has some big dreams and he has just about given indications of his awesome batting potential.

The strength of a batsman lies in not just accumulating runs. The runs ought to be meaningful and Sarwan, at the young age of 22, has learnt to play match-winning knocks. The innings that he crafted at the Keenan Stadium was a gem as he finished the contest in grand style with a boundary off the last ball. In Guyana, the natives of Indian origin believe cricket to be the road to leading a good life. They come from different backgrounds - fishermen to farmers - but the goal for the younger generation is to do well in life. And cricket beckons a lot of youngsters unlike the other islands where football and basketball have been weaning away some good talent.

For Sarwan, the motivation came from the success achieved by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who chose cricket as the medium. Coming from a similar background and big names such as Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Carl Hooper to emulate, it was natural for Sarwan to make it good in cricket.

"I had a role to play and I'm happy to have finished the job," said Sarwan on his grand innings. At no point did he panic and some of the shots he played spoke of his maturity. He was not averse to lofting the ball and that enabled him to maintain the pace.

"Watch out for Sarwan," said former West Indies batsman Joe Solomon once. The West Indies selectors had identified Sarwan quite early and he was groomed to become a strokemaker. No effort was made to change the youngster's game and his range of shots have been developed over the years with encouragement coming from the seniors.

It was to Sarwan's credit that he kept his focus on his goal. He was aware of his batting potential and he honed it under the shadows of Lara, Hooper and Chanderpaul. Hooper had spoken high of Sarwan's abilities when India last visited the Caribbean Islands. The ease with which Sarwan dealt with the Indian bowlers was one of the features of the series even though critics rightly pointed a flaw in his approach. Sarwan tended to get complacent once he crossed the half-century.

Sarwan took the criticism in his stride and worked on his game. His match-winning essay at Jamshedpur should establish Sarwan as a key member of the West Indian team. The 'Man of the Match' honour at the Keenan Stadium was an apt appreciation of Sarwan's astonishing knock.