He backs himself

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

ANOTHER last-over finish! Another win for the West Indies. More worries for the Indian team management as Sourav Ganguly and his men gave a disappointing account of themselves at the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium. After the defeat at Jamshedpur, it was expected that the Indians would play for pride. Well, Carl Hooper had given the warning signals when he described his team as a better one-day combination. Past experience should have guided India but then some of the lessons were not learnt at all.

Chris Gayle was named the 'Man of the Match' for his splendid century.-V. V. KRISHNAN

For long, India had thrived on its batting strength and there was no doubt at the start of the series that the West Indies bowlers would have a task on hand. To contain the Indian batsmen on placid tracks was going to be one tough assignment for the West Indians but the first two matches showed that they had the batting line-up to back the bowlers.

The West Indies had a plan to follow. The batsmen had their responsibilities to fulfil and the bowlers also did not flinch from the challenge. There were many difficult moments at Jamshedpur and Nagpur, but the West Indies had a motivated and young line-up which was keen to erase the bitter memories of the Test defeats in Mumbai and Chennai.

''We were beaten by a team which played better cricket," conceded Sourav Ganguly. The India captain was only confirming the obvious. Of course, the West Indies had played better cricket but then the home team was below par on a lot of fronts and the main factor clearly against India was the lack of cohesion. "We should have bowled better," Ganguly pointed out but the fact remained that he too erred in dealing with the situation.

Vasbert Drakes, the most successful West Indian bowler, celebrates the fall of Anil Kumble with wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The hero of the West Indies win was undoubtedly Chris Gayle, who crafted his second one-day century, but one had to acknowledge the efforts of Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan too. The West Indians did not rely on one man to finish the job and the policy paid off when Chanderpaul and Sarwan took up the chase in the right manner after Gayle departed to a good ball from Javagal Srinath, who was the outstanding bowler of the match.

If only Srinath had had support. The Indian attack was pedestrian all the way and at one point Ganguly was livid. He stood with his arms on hips, his glare becoming increasingly fierce, but then it hardly helped lift the spirit of the attack which was let down by the poor form of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

What does a captain do when his best bowlers share just 12 overs? Ganguly's predicament increased with every over. The seamers, Ashish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar, were treated with disdain and it was left to Virender Sehwag to provide the support to Srinath. The India skipper did not exercise the option of using Yuveraj Singh despite the regular bowlers being smashed around at will.

The defeat should not mean the end of the world for a team as talented as India, but then it highlighted a few glaring shortcomings in the team. The most prominent of them was the failure of the Indian spinners. It became clear that these spinners would succeed only in amiable conditions as Kumble and Harbhajan were repeatedly given the charge by Gayle and Samuels. The ease with which they were swept around must have caused concern to the team management.

Sourav Ganguly takes runs off Mahendra Nagamootoo. The Indian skipper scored 78 and completed 8000 runs in one-day internationals.-V. V. KRISHNAN

In the name of carrying out some experiments in the run up to the World Cup, the likes of Agarkar and Harbhajan have been projected as pinch-hitters. Even as Agarkar clicked at Jamshedpur and failed at Nagpur, it was hard to understand the need to promote Harbhajan in the second match. The Indians were doing pretty well when Harbhajan was promoted to smash the ball around but then the West Indians were not mere club level bowlers. They trapped him as easily as Sehwag had been snared into playing a silly hook.

The gains for India came in the shape of V. V. S. Laxman, who missed his second one-day century by a run, and Rahul Dravid, who batted superbly for his racy half-century. Ganguly had shown the way with a strokeful half-century, but the Indians lost direction at a crucial point and ended up no less than 25 runs short of what they had promised at the end of 35 overs.

The target of 280 was challenging no doubt but the confidence of the West Indians had been high after the last-ball finish of the preceding match. At Nagpur too, the West Indies lost no time in making its intentions known as Hinds and Gayle slammed the bowlers with great flourish right from the start. The trend had been set and the Indian bowlers fell into the trap by bowling short, much to the delight of the West Indians who revel in strokes square of the wicket.

V. V. S. Laxman pulls Nagamootoo. The elegant Hyderabad batsman was unfortunate to fall for 99.-V. V. KRISHNAN

A crucial factor was the batting skill of Samuels who made a mockery of the spinners. He put Sehwag out of the firing line and then concentrated on Kumble and Harbhajan to win the battle hands down before getting out to an innocuous ball. With Gayle in such tremendous nick, the West Indies had no reasons to worry and the job was accomplished through a thoroughly professional finish by Chanderpaul and Sarwan, who again showed he was a complete batsman. The West Indies was a far superior side and a clear winner. If there was a sore point in this match, it was again a section of the crowd which brought the game to a nine-minute stop. The crowd saw reason only after the Match Referee, Mike Procter threatened to abandon the game if one more missile was hurled at the West Indies fielders. It was a shameful incident which only showed the quality of cricket watchers in the country. It also showed that the police was ill-trained to handle such situations. But then things can never improve because the police, instead of watching the spectators, only watch the cricketers. An exception to the mismanagement was the excellent facilities for the media, very different from many media boxes elsewhere.

India: S. Ganguly c Drakes b Nagamootoo 78; V. Sehwag c Dillon b Drakes 1; A. Agarkar c Sarwan b Dillon 6; V. V. S. Laxman st. Jacobs b Gayle 99; Harbhajan Singh c R. Powell (sub) b Nagamootoo 2; R. Dravid (run out) 51; Yuveraj Singh c Chanderpaul b Drakes 1; M. Kaif (not out) 12; J. Srinath (run out) 2; A. Kumble b Drakes 2; A. Nehra (not out) 2. Extras (lb-5, nb-10, w-8) 23. Total (for nine wkts in 47 overs) 279.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-20, 3-148, 4-155, 5-260, 6-260, 7-262, 8-267, 9-272.

It's celebration time for Javagal Srinath as he has just got rid of Wavell Hinds. Srinath was the best Indian bowler on view.-V. V. KRISHNAN

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-0-59-1, Drakes 9-0-55-3, Collymore 4-0-35-0, Hooper 9-1-42-0, Nagamootoo 10-0-49-2, Gayle 5-0-34-1.

West Indies: C. Gayle b Srinath 103; W. Hinds c Agarkar b Srinath 27; M. Samuels c Kaif b Sehwag 52; R. Sarwan (not out) 39; S. Chanderpaul (not out) 39. Extras (b-6, lb-6, nb-1, w-7) 20. Total (for three wkts in 46.2 overs) 280.

Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-176, 3-221.

India bowling: Srinath 9.2-1-35-2, Nehra 10-0-67-0, Agarkar 7-0-47-0, Sehwag 8-0-51-1, Harbhajan 6-0-35-0, Kumble 6-0-33-0.

IT was a very different gale that hit the Indian camp. It came in gusts and swept the Indian bowlers off their feet. For Chris Gayle, it was an innings of immense significance. His second one-day century was a treat. It showed that this Jamaican was now established as one of the premier batsmen in the West Indian scheme of things.

Gayle has been at the forefront of the West Indian revival and with his style of aggressive batsmanship stands a good chance of making it big. That he enjoys the company of fellow-Jamaican Wavell Hinds was clear from the manner in which the pair demolished the Indian seamers. The runs came at a rapid pace from the start and it kept the team in the hunt.

''It's an important innings for me," said Gayle, who cracked a brilliant century that laid the base for the West Indian victory at Nagpur. He paced his innings like a seasoned batsman and was never in any discomfort against any bowler. The placid nature of the pitch suited his strokeplay as he played some astounding shots.

Gayle spared none and was very severe on the Indian spinners. It was a very disciplined and mature knock, and deserved to be adjudged the best performance of the match. The feature of his innings was the ease with which he built his challenge. He was quick to spot the bad balls and once he realised his partners were in equally fine form, Gayle lost no time in seizing the initiative.

''I just wanted to win the match for my team. I had set a goal for myself and I just had to hang in there to finish my job," said Gayle, who agreed it was one of his finest knocks. There was merit in Gayle having visions of a win early because he was sure of himself. "I've always backed myself," said Gayle, who has also been one of the favourites of selectors back home.

The century at Nagpur was crafted like a professional and Gayle was rightly described by skipper Carl Hooper as one of the pillars of the West Indies revival. "He's a very talented batsman and has a role to play in the team's revival," said Hooper, who praised Gayle for his brilliant century.

The Indians had no clue as Gayle played a wide range of strokes. The ease with which he swept Harbhajan and employed the paddle-sweep against Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag was a delight to watch. The seamers too were dealt with severely and it was hardly surprising that Gayle toyed with the attack. His batting potential has been the talking point for some time and the century at the VCA was a confirmation of that talent.