"I have always tried to give my best"

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

IT was the same old story. Indian batsmen not knowing how to survive on a pitch which saw the ball bounce a little and seam a little. But what a huge impression it made on the Indian batting line up where Sachin Tendulkar contributed a mere eight runs. His failure was a sore point in this Indian debacle, for much was expected from him.

Carl Hooper in a belligerent mood at the Kensington Oval, Barbados. The West Indies captain made a match-winning hundred in the team's first innings.-V. V. KRISHNAN

In the absence of any motivation from Tendulkar, the team just crumbled around him even though skipper Sourav Ganguly managed to save his skin with two good knocks. The defeat at the Kensington Oval in Barbados was an emphatic statement on the poor mental strength of the Indian batsmen when faced with some quality attack on responsive pitches.

This was not even a fiery track. The pitch had bounce but it was true and then the movement was not so alarming to have the kind of damaging effect that it did on the Indian batting line up. When you lose a wicket off the first ball of the match it can always be tough and when you get bowled out for just 102 on the first day itself, it adds to the problems.

Here, India's problems multiplied because of the batting collapse. "It was the deciding factor of the match," admitted Ganguly, as he expressed disappointment at the manner in which some of his colleagues got out. There was no effort to arrest the slide and one batsman after another left the responsibility to the other and in the end there was nothing but humiliation for the Indians.

To lose the Test inside four days against a team which had experienced all kinds of hardships in its rebuilding efforts was a poor reflection on the overall standards of the Indian team. It was a pity that the team management had no ready answer even though the reasons for the defeat were not new.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul punishes Harbhajan Singh. Chanderpaul, who came up with a century, had a rollicking stand with his skipper, Hooper.-V. V. KRISHNAN

There was lack of understanding of the situation and it was quite an unprofessional approach by the Indians that left them red-faced. It was quite a pleasant happening for the West Indians that they should script their comeback at Barbados, once the seat of power of cricket in the Caribbean.

It was at this very venue, five years ago, that India had failed to make 120 to win. The confidence level of the Indians this time was high, what with the victory in the second Test at Port of Spain having given them a rare 1-0 lead in a series overseas. True, the Indians had won at Bulawayo against Zimbabwe last year only to lose the next game at Harare, there were hopes that Ganguly and his men were capable of overcoming the jinx on this occasion.

The best chance for India was striking early wickets in the West Indies innings, but it did not happen because the home team had done its homework very well. It was left to young Ramnaresh Sarwan to play an enterprising role in the company of Brian Lara, who chose to bat according to the needs of the team. It was quite an ominous signal for the Indians who continued to be complacent. And when they emerged out of it, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had left a big scar on the Indian attack.

In hindsight, the reprieve to Hooper by the third umpire, Billy Doctrove ,was a major factor in deciding the course of the match. Hooper was then on 13. The bowler deflected the ball to the stumps when Hooper, the non-striker, attempted a run. The third umpire shockingly gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman. It was a bad judgment because Doctrove had all the angles at his disposal and two of them clearly showed Hooper out of the crease.

Mervyn Dillon is quite pleased after dismissing Sachin Tendulkar cheaply in India's second innings. The West Indies paceman picked up eight wickets in the match.-V. V. KRISHNAN

It was a fit case for having a review of the system. Why not have a neutral third umpire too to win the confidence of both the teams? The Indian camp nursed a grudge against some umpiring decisions, but then it also ought to admit that it played poor cricket all the way at Bridgetown.

"What chance do you have after a first innings collapse," remarked Ganguly. He was justified in his anger as none of the batsmen applied themselves to the job. The bowlers stood little chance once Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul struck another glorious partnership. They had come up with a double-century stand in the first Test at Georgetown and performed an encore at Bridgetown with some very sensible batsmanship.

There was no doubt that seamer Mervyn Dillon swung the match his team's way with his crafty bowling in either innings but the impact that the partnership of Hooper and Chanderpaul made was far more significant. With their 215-run stand, they effectively shut India out of the match because ultimately the big first innings deficit played its part in demoralising the Indian batsmen.

Blame the unprofessional grooming or the fact that some of the batsmen just do not have the calibre, the Indians looked a mediocre combination at various stages in the match. There was no merit in putting the blame on an individual because it was a collective failure. The bowlers were put in their place by the aggressive batting by Hooper and Chanderpaul, who hit a century each, and then the West Indian bowlers showed great discipline in sticking to a probing line and length. The attack proved incisive because it understood its limitations.

Cameron Cuffy runs out Rahul Dravid. India was shot out for a paltry 102 in the first essay and Dravid made only 17.-V. V. KRISHNAN

"It was tough to come back," said Ganguly. No doubt about that. It would have required someone to play a Laxman of Eden Gardens to script a dream recovery. It was asking for too much because the conditions were different and one must say that the West Indians also deserved credit for reorganising themselves after the defeat at Port of Spain.

"We always knew we could come back," said Hooper. A sedate knock by Brian Lara and an enterprising one from Ramnaresh Sarwan had laid the base for Hooper and Chanderpaul. That third umpires folly apart, the West Indians deserved to win for they played better cricket.

"No harm in accepting defeat," Ganguly was gracious while putting things in the perspective. He did realise that he did not have the ammunition to alter the course of the match even though on the personal front he did his best. But India lacked the will after that abysmal batting collapse on the first day.

Sourav Ganguly lifts Dillon for a six. He did his part well with the bat. "What chance do you have after a first innings collapse," said the Indian skipper.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Tendulkar and Dravid failed to get going in both the innings. Dravid was unfortunately run out on the first day while Tendulkar got a fifty-fifty decision in the second innings when the ball hit him on the roll. But there could not have been any excuses for the miserable show by India, especially after having taken a 1-0 lead.

The Indian camp may well have missed the services of Anil Kumble because Harbhajan Singh looked off colour. It was clear that the off-spinner had the fear of the injury at the back of his mind and did not appear to have completely recovered. The team management, however, defended his selection.

The West Indies was easily the better side in the third Test, having made the right moves at the right time all through the match. The Indians had plenty of lessons to learn and the most important one was for the batsmen to learn to adapt to deal with the extra bounce in the pitch.

The scores: India 102 (S.Ganguly 48, Dillon 4-41, Sanford 3-20) and 296 (S.S.Das 35, Jaffer 51, S.Ganguly 60 n.o., Laxman 43, Z.Khan 46, Dillon 4-82) lost to West Indies 394 (Sarwan 60, Lara 55, Hooper 115, Chanderpaul 101 n.o., Nehra 4-112, Harbhajan 3-87) and 5 for no loss.

A COMMENT made by a television host might have just inspired Mervyn Dillon to produce one of his best spells in Test cricket from the time he made his debut in 1997, against India at home. It has taken him five years to win a round against his critic.

The television host had questioned the ability of Dillon of sharing the new ball which was once shared by Malcolm Marshall. Obviously the comparison was to highlight the fall in the standards of fast bowlers in the Caribbean but Dillon made it a point to justify his place in the side.

Dillon comes from a good cricketing grooming.

It was hard grind for him in Trinidad but from the time he made his mark in 1992, he has made steady progress. Only 24 Tests in five years may not speak well for Dillon's potential, but then he has none to blame.

He lived under the shadow of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and now, at 27, finds himself the spearhead of the West Indian attack.

"I have always tried to give my best. This is a crucial series for us and we've been focused at winning it," he said. The Man of the Match reward was quite befitting his effort - four wickets in each innings.

Dillon gave the West Indies a dream start when he got Shiv Sundar Das with the first ball of the match.

"It was a great feeling no doubt," said Dillon. He picked up the wicket of Wasim Jaffer and then later added Ajay Ratra and Javagal Srinath to his bag just to ensure there was no fightback from the lower half.

Dillon bowled his best on the third afternoon. Once again he packed off Das and then the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar proved the turning point.

He celebrated the wicket in a big way and understandably too. Getting Tendulkar out of the way was what the West Indies had aimed for even as it got Rahul Dravid too cheaply.

Dillon was pleased with the progress he had made in the last few years.

The great Malcolm Marshall had rated Dillon high even though the Trinidadian had not been able to live up to that assessment. Dillon would not like to let his mentor down and this performance at Kensington Oval might just be his way of paying tribute to the faith that Marshall placed in him.

Dillon's forte may not be swing or pace but the fact is that he is able to extract bounce on unresponsive tracks.

It is this disconcerting bounce that makes Dillon a bowler who needs to be watched closely.

The Indians discovered to their discomfort that he had improved as a bowler and is now a matchwinner and not just a partner for Cameron Cuffy and the rest.

He can bowl long spells and that was a fact appreciated by skipper Carl Hooper.

"He plays for the team," said Hooper and the match winning show in Barbados was a pleasant proof. Dillon had taken some time but delivered when it mattered.

The win at the Kensington Oval could do wonders to the confidence of a team which is in search of regaining its lost glory in international cricket. Dillon is indeed worthy of bowling the new ball for the West Indies.