Indian bowlers revel

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

IT was supposed to be a match against a strong Guyana combination, one of the top teams in the Caribbean. The three-day tour opener was planned with the intention of providing the Indians a competitive match in the run up to the first Test but the indecision by the Indian Board in finalising the tour itinerary led to the team playing a weaker squad. One is sure such a scenario would not have occurred had the touring side been Australia, South Africa, New Zealand or England.

Reon Griffith is caught behind by Deep Dasgupta off Anil Kumble in the second innings. The spinner had a good time at the Everest Ground, Georgetown, Guyana.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The Indians were left facing a second string combination because Guyana had entered the final of the Busta International Shield. The match may not have provided the competitive flavour to the Indians but it did expose a few weak areas in the side. The complacency in the batting line up stood out glaringly with the exception of Sanjay Bangar, who certainly saved the team embarrassment.

"We had to make the most of it," said skipper Sourav Ganguly in reference to the poor strength of the opposition. He pointed out that the opening bowlers, Reon Griffith and Rayon Thomas, were quite nippy. "I don't think they were bad bowlers by any standard," said Ganguly.

The Indians won the match by nine wickets, a result which was on expected lines but made possible only by some good work by the bowlers. Anil Kumble was able to find his rhythm after Javagal Srinath bowled a lively spell on the first morning.

Javagal Srinath exults after taking the wicket of Andrew Gonsalves.-V. V. KRISHNAN

For Kumble, it was a role he had performed quite admirably. He finished with a match-haul of seven wickets, including five in the second innings, while Harbhajan Singh accounted for five wickets, including four in the first. For seamers Srinath and Zaheer Khan, who took four wickets each, it was an encouraging start to the tour.

For Bangar, it was a match of utmost importance. He had been listed at number seven and was also marked by the team management as an all-rounder to give more options in the bowling department. This was the right stage for the humble Railways cricketer to gain in confidence even though the century against Zimbabwe in the Nagpur Test had established his credentials as a cricketer worth investing in.

Bangar belongs to the old school where much emphasis was laid on building the innings and more importantly to the importance of batting according to the instructions of the team management. "I've always believed in playing in the interest of the team," said Bangar. His Railway mates would vouch for the man's loyalty to the cause of the team and it was not really surprising to see Bangar sacrifice his natural game.

Sanjay Bangar, who made an unbeaten 76, lifts Hemnarine Harinarine for a six.-V. V. KRISHNAN

A very quick learner, Bangar adapted to the challenge by just playing second fiddle to V.V.S. Laxman, who used the opportunity to try and get a feel of the conditions. Having toured the West Indies in 1997, Laxman was well aware of the slow and low nature of the pitches in the Caribbean but the pitch here was two paced and it meant that strokemaking had to be a cautious exercise.

Laxman fell to an indiscreet stroke but Bangar showed remarkable temperament in building his innings. He paced it like a seasoned batsman, opening out to slam some robust shots as the Indians swelled the first innings lead to 130. The Guyanese second strong line up was not able to read the guiles of Kumble and Harbhajan in the second innings too, much to the disappointment of the spectators, who stayed away on the final day.

The victory was a nice feeling for the Indian team but then Ganguly admitted that it would have been better had some of the batsmen not played "bad shots." He had expected the batsmen to understand their roles better but then sprung to their defence by saying that they could have experimented with a few shots since it was tour game. "You can't always try out things in a Test match," he added.

Vishal Nagamootoo sweeps Anil Kumble. He made a fine 78 in the second essay.-V. V. KRISHNAN

On the eve of the match, the GBP XI coach Leon Mendonca had commented "we have a few promising youngsters in the side." He had mentioned Griffith as a good prospect and also pointed out the talent of wicket keeper-batsman Vishal Nagamootoo, the younger brother of Test leg-spinner Mahendra. As things turned out, Nagamootoo produced a lively innings on the final day to delay the victory while Griffith pushed the Indians on the backfoot, repeatedly getting the ball to climb to the ribs.

The Indians had a few gains from the match. "I thought the bowlers did a decent job," remarked coach John Wright. He was supported by Ganguly, who praised Kumble for his nagging line. Srinath was a big influence on the first day. The sore point for the spectators was the batting failures of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. The innings by Ganguly was a reminder of the skippers resolve to sort out a few things. He had himself to blame for not extending his stay because he too was guilty of playing a poor shot.

Deep Dasgupta is run out by a direct hit from Travis Dowlin.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The match ended after lunch on the final day but the runs came in a laborious manner, what with Shiv Sundar Das and Deep Dasgupta making heavy weather of the modest target of 39 runs to win.

The scores:

Guyana Board President's XI 118 (Krishna Arjune 25, Hoomchand Pooran 41, Harbhajan four for 37) and 168 (Vishal Nagamootoo 78, Srinath three for 19, Kumble five for 50) lost to Indians 248 (Ganguly 52, V. V. S. Laxman 43, Sanjay Bangar 76 not out, Dasrat three for 49, Harinarine three for 54) and 39 for no loss.