Making a mockery of big targets

G. VISWANATH

THE fourth TVS Cup match at Motera was like a trial of strength between two teams with the batsmen pitted against each other and willing to fight and challenge the limits. The West Indies raised the bar making 324 in 50 overs and under the lights India enacted high drama, to surpass the high score. Firecrackers were lit to denote a fine Indian win at Motera and Sanjay Bangar was hugged as the Indians paraded in front of over 50,000 sporting people, who were good enough not to throw a stone or a bottle.

Sanjay Bangar bristled with uncharacteristic aggression and powered India to victory. Here he cracks Carl Hooper.-VIVEK BENDRE

It has not been a straightforward bat and ball game of cricket ever since the last ball was sent down in the Test series between these teams at the Eden Gardens. Both the teams set close to 300 targets and saw it drown in a counter-attack. The big boys of the game and the faint-hearted supporters choked under pressure. Ramnaresh Sarwan achieved glory off the last ball at the Keenan Stadium and Chris Gayle blew away the Indians at Nagpur. Fresh battle lines were drawn at Rajkot. Chasing a near 300 total became the order of the day as the Indian and the West Indies batsmen sent the bowlers to the cleaners.

The Match Referee Mike Procter turned out to be a sort of a good samaritan at Rajkot. He did not break rules. The rules were not there in the book. He simply awarded the match to the home team because Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag had fired on all cylinders and left no one, including Procter, in doubt. The West Indies manager Ricky Skerritt said his team would always like a result to be determined on the field of play. "It's a funny game. We could have won," said Carl Hooper.

Nothing could provide salve to the West Indies wound. Ridley Jacobs (acting for Hooper at Rajkot) had said that his team might have been 25 runs short after seeing Sehwag and Ganguly thrash his bowlers. The West Indies made those extra runs at Motera; but in spite of specialist batsmen falling at the other end, Dravid and Bangar made it to the winning post.

Rahul Dravid's well-paced century was the backbone of the Indian innings. The Indian vice-captain is being severe on Mahendra Nagamootoo here.-VIVEK BENDRE

Dravid was 'The Wall' the West Indians failed to crack. He showed the full face of his bat in defence and attack and pushed the ball into the gaps for runs to turn the match India's way. He let Bangar (57 not out, 41 balls, 5x 4, 2x 6) go for the bowling when the latter took his batting to mind-boggling levels. "Bangar's innings was an absolute blinder. It was sensational. In times like these, India needed someone to put his hand up and deliver. Bangar did it for the team and India," said Dravid.

Dravid played meticulously, not leaving a gap between bat and pad, forcing the pace and maintaining the six plus run rate. Bangar helped him along in the end. Dravid, the vice-captain and Ganguly, the captain, were happy. "When you pick players, you trust them and back them. I was not surprised that Bangar batted so well as he did," said Ganguly.

The West Indies was off to a flying start. Chris Gayle (Man of the Match) and Wavell Hinds attacked the Indian bowlers. The first nine overs produced 80 runs when Hinds made a hash of things outside the off stump and took the long walk back. Gayle continued to score heavily. Ashish Nehra was the poor chap who was clobbered for 41 runs off his first four overs. Srinath went for 37 from his six.

V. V. S. Laxman propped up the Indian innings after the early loss of Sehwag and Ganguly. On way to his 66, Laxman drives Pedro Collins.-VIVEK BENDRE

Harbhajan Singh stepped in to check the flow of runs. Leftarm spinner Murali Kartik offered his helping hand, giving away just 46 runs from his quota of 10 overs. Sarwan once again made a fine impression. After being circumspect for a while, Gayle showed his repertoire. "It was an outstanding innings. Some of the shots he played were stunning," said Ganguly.

The third wicket stand took the West Indies from 90 for two to 238 for three in two hours and six minutes before Kartik went down on his knees at long off and took the dipping catch to see the back of Gayle. The Jamaican made 140 in two hours and 42 minutes. Eleven more overs were remaining and Sarwan and Hooper put on 86 runs for the unbroken sixth wicket. Sarwan went as far as to remain undefeated on 99 (104b, 8x4), the closest he has come to notching up a century in an international match for the West Indies.

Virender Sehwag and Ganguly had to repeat their Rajkot performance for India to approach a high target of 325. But Mervyn Dillon, Pedro Collins and Vasbert Drakes had other ideas. They went all out, especially Dillon, who made a delivery kick up for Sehwag to be consumed off the third ball he faced. Ganguly perished deflecting the ball to Ridley Jacobs on the leg side. Laxman and Dravid helped in the recovery process and in the end Dravid (109 not out, 203m, 124b, 7x4) and Bangar had the West Indians 'stumped' with a rollicking stand.

Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle (below) take full toll of Virender Sehwag. While Sarwan was left unbeaten on 99, Gayle piled up 140 and was named the 'Man of the Match.'-VIVEK BENDRE

"I was intent on playing positive cricket, but after the fall of the opening pair, I decided to bat till the end. It was difficult to pick the ball because it had become brown. Even the West Indies bowlers had problems gripping the ball (because of dew) and a wet outfield. They bowled well in the first 15 overs. I have no regrets not being adjudged the 'Man of the Match'. What's important was an Indian win," said Dravid.The West Indies skipper Carl Hooper who missed the match at Rajkot because of a knee strain said that Bangar's batting was uncharacteristic of him. He said conditions in South Africa during the World Cup would be different. "I doubt if the same scores can be achieved against an Australian attack," he said.

It was a trouble-free match, too. "I think Ahmedabad set an example. We saw over 50,000 people and they behaved very well. They were fantastic. The security has been good everywhere. It was always a question of crowd management. But Ahmedabad was great," said Procter.

VIVEK BENDRE

The scores:

West Indies: C. Gayle c Kartik b Sehwag 140; W. Hinds c Dravid b Srinath 26; M. Samuels (run out) 5; R. Sarwan (not out) 99; S. Chanderpaul c (sub) D. Mongia b Harbhajan 3; C. Hooper (not out) 36. Extras (lb-5, nb-1, w-9) 15. Total (for four wkts in 50 overs) 324.

Fall of wickets: 1-80, 2-90, 3-238, 4-258.

India bowling: Srinath 9-1-71-1, Nehra 5-0-53-0, Harbhajan 10-1-30-1, Kartik 10-0-46-0, Ganguly 1-0-9-0, Sehwag 8-0-49-1, Yuveraj 6-0-48-0, Bangar 1-0-13-0.

India: S. Ganguly c Jacobs b Collins 28; V. Sehwag c Hooper b Dillon 4; V. V. S. Laxman (run out) 66; R. Dravid (not out) 109; Yuveraj Singh c Hooper b Dillon 30; M. Kaif c (sub) R. Powell b Drakes 8; S. Bangar (not out) 57. Extras (lb-2, nb-13, w-8) 23. Total (for five wkts in 47.4 overs) 325.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-45, 3-148, 4-209, 5-231.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-0-65-2, Collins 9-0-60-1, Drakes 9.4-0-60-1, Hooper 9-0-61-0, Nagamoottoo 9-0-62-0, Gayle 1-0-15-0.

Jamaican flavour

THERE'S been a distinct dash of Jamaican flavour in the second part of the West Indies tour of India. Two Jamaican batsmen, Christopher Gayle, 23 and Wavell Hinds, 26, have taken heavy toll of the Indian bowlers in the seven-match one-day international series for the TVS Cup. Gayle, the younger of the two southpaws has bested his partner, but Hinds has shown his class, too.

"Hitting does not mean swiping. Beginners must realise that. It does not mean hitting for sixes, either. It means getting at the bowler, going for him, refusing to be tied up in defensive postures and allowing him to do what he likes and try his various lengths and experiments on you in peace. It means strokeplay and aggression," wrote Learie Constantine in 'The Young Cricketer's Companion.'

Gayle has epitomised a part of the legendary West Indian's advice to talented cricketers. The West Indies cricketers hold the likes of Learie Constantine, George Headley and Sir Frank Worrell in high esteem. The first two named were the founding fathers of the West Indies brand of cricket based on bright batting and genuine fast bowling, all with the ultimate aim of providing entertaining cricket.

Several from the Caribbean Islands who have set foot on Indian soil have left its shores with fantastic batting deeds. The 'Prince of Trinidad' Brian Lara has not been as successful against India; he played three Tests in the 1994 series, but did not make many runs. He missed the latest tour because of illness. Shivnaraine Chanderpaul has been a prolific scorer against India, but despite his high average, he might not have really won many Indian admirers because of the way he bats, though he is not a strokeless wonder. Ramnaresh Sarwan has been lucky in this regard.

In the absence of Lara, the West Indies have looked upon Gayle and Hinds to prop it up. They were not equipped to deal with the Indian spinners in the first two Tests, but once the heat and dust of Test cricket was over, they struck form on pitches that have turned out to be the batsmen's ally. Gayle made only 7 in the first one-day international at the Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur, but followed that with scores of 103 (Nagpur), 72 (Rajkot) and 140 (Motera).

A batsman who destroyed bowlers all over the world and who is currently the Chairman of the West Indies selection committee, Sir Vivian Richards and that superb fast bowler Michael Holding have gone on record that Gayle resembles Clive Lloyd in batting style. That in itself is a wonderful compliment.

Gayle is tall, but doesn't have beam-like shoulders. However, he packs power in his shots off either foot and clubs the ball hard and long. The shorter the ball, the faster it reached the fence from his bat in the fourth international. At Motera in the course of his attacking knock of 140 (127b, 12x4, 5x6) he drove over extra cover and over long on. The result was the same; the ball going for a six. He also played a wide range of shots.

He had only one one-day international century to show before the TVS Cup began. He had scored 152 against Kenya at the Simba Union Ground in August 2000.

In one-day internationals, Gayle has an aggregate of 615 from 14 matches against India and is 12 runs short of 2000 runs overall, after his fourth century at Baroda.

His campaign at Motera, in the only match played under lights, was spectacular. He plundered runs off Nehra and the others, and did not chance his arm against Harbhajan.

It was because of his cool and composed approach that he ended up making 140 and helped the West Indies total along to 324. Though India won the match, Match Referee Mike Procter awarded the 'Victor' Man of the Match award to Gayle. "One hundred and forty runs in a one-day match is a lot of runs. He fully deserved it," said Rahul Dravid who made an unbeaten 109 and led India to victory.