Sehwag scintillates before spectators play spoilsport


HAD things been normal, Virender Sehwag would have cornered all glory and taken India to a fine victory in the third one-day international of the TVS Cup at Rajkot. The well-planned and calculated onslaught by the Indian openers, Sourav Ganguly and Sehwag, on the West Indies bowling had put India on the road to victory before a plastic water bottle thrown at Vasbert Drakes resulted in the match being abandoned and thereafter awarded to India by the Match Referee, Mike Procter. The West Indies made 300 in 50 overs and India, in reply, had reached 200 for one in 27.1 overs. The Duckworth and Lewis formula, which is used to determine the winner in the event of matches being interrupted by rain and other factors, was taken into account to declare India the winner.

Chasing a target of 301 for victory, the Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly went after the West Indian bowlers from the word go to pile up 196 runs in quick time. Sehwag notched up a century but Ganguly perished after making 72.-VIVEK BENDRE

Procter explained that according to the Duckworth and Lewis formula, India's score at the end of 27 overs should have been 119 for one wicket. This would seem unfair to the West Indies because it had made a formidable total, straightaway setting a six-plus run rate per over task for the Indians. Since the formula gave weightage to the number of wickets lost, India's score of 200 was determined to be far superior at the time when play was stopped. India had lost fewer wickets, in fact only one, and hence was awarded the match (by 81 runs).

India would have won the match 'by wickets' had it continued to dominate the West Indies bowling after the huge opening partnership of 196 in a little over two hours. "The Indians were deserving winners. They were cruising. They were miles ahead because of the fantastic partnership between Ganguly and Sehwag. One cannot penalise the players or teams for incidents for which they cannot be held responsible," said Procter.

The West Indies, 2-0 up in the series, would have been extremely disappointed that it had to take recourse to an unpleasant act of walking out of the match without giving its bowlers the full opportunity to have a go at the Indian batsmen. But it would not have grudged an Indian win (by application of the Duckworth-Lewis formula), for the team itself was close to being awarded the match at Jamshedpur before the two teams resumed play and completed the match on the field.

It was a similar situation as India was clearly in a commanding position to run away with the third one-day international, although it had to score another 105 runs in 137 balls with nine wickets in hand. The breezy efforts from Sehwag and Ganguly had made such an impact that there possibly could have been no other result, but an Indian victory. Some of the shots Ganguly played were typical of the Indian captain, but there were also shots which indicated the breadth in his repertoire. It was Ganguly (72, 83b, 9x4), who showed the first signs of aggression. The southpaw who has played over 200 one-day internationals and scored over 8000 runs knew how to call the shots, dominate proceedings even in the most adverse situation and outwit the manipulations of the rival team. He took on Dillon and Drakes, smashing seven fours off them in their first spell. He struck the ball hard, high and over and cut fiercely before he was out caught by an acrobatic Shivnarine Chanderpaul. At the other end Sehwag was in full flow. At the start he gave the impression that he was a determined man, staying away from the short deliveries aimed around his body by Drakes and Dillon. The West Indies' ploy to choke him, denying him room to play shots on the off side did not work. He made his intentions clear, thumping Dillon straight down the ground for his first four.

Immediately after Ganguly's departure, there was trouble when a water bottle was thrown at Vasbert Drakes, which prompted the Caribbeans to stage a walk out. The match was abandoned and the Match Referee, Mike Procter, declared India winner based on the Duckworth and Lewis formula.-VIVEK BENDRE

A booming start was required for India to approach the target of 301. Being the senior batsman and captain, Ganguly took up the challenge. Hitting the ball through the line seemed a safe option because the ball invariably came at the batsman straighter through the trajectory and off the pitch, too, at predictable bounce. It was a flat deck and the surface stayed so for the remaining part of the day and until more than 77 overs had been sent down.

The West Indies had no answer to India's riposte. Even Dillon was not spared. He gave away 40 runs from six overs, Drakes 36 from six, Cameron Cuffy 41 from six, Mahendra Nagamootoo 43 from five and Marlon Samuels 16 from 3.1 overs. Chris Gayle proved to be the most expensive, giving away 18 off just one over. India raced to 100 in 13.2 overs and 150 in 20 overs before Ganguly departed at 196.

The Indian bowlers too suffered at the hands of the West Indies batsmen. There were occasions when Javagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra looked good, but on this pitch it was difficult to contain the batsmen. Venkatsai Laxman took a smart catch to send back Wavell Hinds but Gayle, who was responsible for his team's win at Nagpur, drove powerfully from the crease and came up with a flurry of boundary shots.

Ramnaresh Sarwan drives Harbhajan Singh, watched by 'keeper Rahul Dravid, during his knock of 84.-VIVEK BENDRE

Gayle nullified the breakthrough India made at 36. He was in total control, hitting the ball straight, through mid off and covers. Gayle looked sure and safe as long as he came down hard on the ball with a vertical swing, but the moment he decided to deviate from it, he invited disaster as he dragged the ball back onto his stumps. Pulling a ball of stump height is never considered safe; the chances of the batsman top-edging are more than getting plenty of wood on it. On this occasion Gayle played against the spin and under it to be bowled for 72 off 68 balls with 12 fours and two sixes.

After Gayle's departure at 119 (21.2 overs), the two right-handers from Guyana, Ramnaresh Sarwan (84, 88b, 6x4, 2x6) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (74, 77b, 8x4) - Hooper did not play this match because of a knee injury - took charge and forged a partnership of 149 which also turned out to be the best for all wickets at the venue before Ganguly and Sehwag made it the second best in the afternoon session.

Chanderpaul was inclined to improvise shots, but Sarwan looked head and shoulders above the rest of the West Indies batsmen. The two sixes he hit off Harbhajan and Srinath were sweetly timed and the fielder at long field could only see the ball sail over his head.

Both were dismissed when they tried to accelerate the score, but as stand-in captain Ridley Jacobs said after the match, the West Indies total of 300 might not have been enough.

Chris Gayle, who came up with yet another good knock, is bowled by Harbhajan Sigh for 72. Harbhajan claimed two wickets.-VIVEK BENDRE

India's captain Ganguly defended his bowlers saying: "You cannot blame them, the wicket was like that." After the match the National selectors, expectedly, dropped Ajit Agarkar, who gave away 63 runs in just six overs, for the fourth and fifth one-dayers. Anil Kumble, who did not play this match, too, was rested.

The scores:

West Indies: C. Gayle b Harbhajan 72; W. Hinds c Laxman b Srinath 10; M. Samuels c Dravid b Ganguly 16; R. Sarwan c Dravid b Nehra 84; S. Chanderpaul c Yadav b Harbhajan 74; R. Powell (not out) 19; R. Jacobs (not out) 9. Extras (lb-3, nb-4, w-9) 16. Total (for five wkts in 50 overs) 300.

Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-93, 3-119, 4-268, 5-272.

India bowling: Srinath 9-0-46-1, Nehra 10-0-56-1, Agarkar 6-0-63-0,Yadav 2-0-14-0, Ganguly 7-0-30-1, Harbhajan 10-0-59-2, Sehwag 6-0-29-0.

India: S. Ganguly c Chanderpaul b Drakes 72; V. Sehwag (not out) 114; V. V. S. Laxman (not out) 0. Extras (lb-6, nb-4, w-4) 14. Total (for one wkt in 27.1 overs) 200.

Fall of wicket: 196.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 6-0-40-0, Drakes 6-0-36-1, Cuffy 6-0-41-0, Gayle 1-0-18-0, Nagamootoo 5-0-43-0, Samuels 3.1-1-16-0.

In the spotlight

VIRENDER SEHWAG proved to be a big hit once again. A West Indian bowler of some quality, not certainly a supreme fast bowler, had managed to dispatch him to the pavilion for low scores in the first two one-day internationals of the TVS Cup in Jamshedpur and Nagpur.

Sehwag made 28 and one in those two matches. Vasbert Drakes made it an 'all personal dismissal' - he caught him of his own bowling - in the opening match at the Keenan Stadium, and had the Indian opener snapped up by Mervyn Dillon in the second at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) ground.

The consequence of these two failures was the reason behind the latest twinkling star of Indian cricket applying his mind and emerging with an outstanding 114 not out at the Race Course Road venue at Rajkot on November 12.

These days, whether it is success or failure, the spotlight has been on Sehwag. Thousands turn up at the turnstiles to take a vantage point in the Stadium, many more thousands return to the habit of listening to radio commentary and millions take their sofa seats in their drawing rooms or crane their necks out and nudge people outside television showrooms, all just to see India's latest cricketing find going full blast. Sehwag and the likes of Yuveraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif have become the cynosure of all eyes.

The game of cricket received a big boost in the late 1980s when Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli struck sixes and hammered hundreds in Mumbai's inter-school cricket and junior cricket. One of them proceeded in the same fashion in the big league giving joy to millions of followers of the game the world over. Kambli did not prove to be as good as his school chum Tendulkar.

A decade and more later, Indian cricket appears to be firmly in the hands of the likes of Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman, but more importantly the young blood in Sehwag, Yuveraj and Kaif. They have produced the sensational and hence their ilk is getting immediate attention and great compliments from the game's devotees. Indian bowlers rarely deliver the goods and do not figure in the bunch of esteemed men and fail to receive rave reviews.

Among the three youngsters, Sehwag has got more opportunities to show his precious and natural talent and has occupied the centrestage, playing the main part as a batsman, leaving the likes of Yuveraj and Kaif to throw themselves on the field, take spellbinding catches and sprint after the ball for sliding stops. His unbeaten 114 against the West Indies at Rajkot was his sixth in internationals (Tests and ODIs); three in Test match cricket have come in less than a calendar year. Rarely have batsmen been able to bridge the gap in limited-over matches where he takes chances and runs the risk of offering his wicket. Sehwag made his one-day international debut almost four years ago and has since been capped on 46 occasions. But there has been a similarity in all the three century knocks - all were explosive and entertaining. The first against New Zealand came in 70 balls at the SSC, Colombo. The second came against England in the recently held ICC Champions Trophy. It was again a 70-odd ball effort. His third against the West Indies - his first at home - came off 75 balls. Sehwag took the responsibility upon himself to defy and deal with the West Indies bowlers in his own way, but showing a little bit of circumspection in the beginning. He did not hit a boundary shot (4 or 6) before he faced the first ball of the seventh over of the innings.

The West Indies positioned a leg slip or short fine leg for him, but Sehwag did not let himself to be trapped. He was so conscientious that he did not hit a single boundary shot off Drakes to whom he fell in the previous two one-dayers. He struck 17 fours (three off Dillon, five off Cameron Cuffy, four off Chris Gayle, four off Mahendra Nagamootoo and one off Marlon Samuels) and two sixes (one each off Gayle and Nagamootoo).

The first four off Dillon was a peach of a shot. The slash over point off Dillon and the three cut shots off Nagamootoo were outstanding ones. The cut shots actually bisected short third man (on the 30-yard circle) and backward point.

Sehwag's rousing innings was terminated (114 not out, 124m, 82b, 17x4, 2x6) when the West Indies decided to leave the field after Drakes was struck by a water bottle. He and Ganguly had lit up the afternoon session with an array of shots to put on 196 for the first wicket. Ganguly perished after making a fine and attractive 72, and in the circumstances Sehwag was an automatic choice for the 'Victor (Man of the Match) award presented by the tournament sponsor, TVS Motor Company.

A worrying trend

A section of the crowd turned out to be the spoilsport both at Jamshedpur and Nagpur. The presence of a large number of policemen failed to prevent vandals from throwing rubbish on the ground and at the players of both the teams. The Match Referee, Mike Procter, was surprised by the turn of events that took place in the Steel City, more so in the Orange City when miscreants threw stones at Ramnaresh Sarwan in the first session and when play was not even at the halfway stage of the India innings.

Rajkot was a far cry from the scale of events at Jamshedpur and Nagpur that did not damage any property, but tarnished the image of the two centres. The area between the barbed fencing and the advertising boards was clean and without debris, which showed that the spectators had not indulged in misconduct.

According to the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA), a 12-year-old boy threw a water bottle, which Vasbert Drakes claimed to have hit him at the back of his leg. "Even if the boy misbehaved, he had no intention to hurt anyone on the field. There was no trace of the water bottle on the ground. Nobody found it," said Yogesh Shah, an SCA official.

Play came to a standstill at 3.22 p.m. after off-spinner Marlon Samuels had bowled the first ball of the 28th over. The West Indies skipper Ridley Jacobs (standing in for the injured Carl Hooper) left the field with his team and did not agree to resume play after the police cleared the West Stand from where the bottle had been thrown.

"There were three incidents. Two were related to Pedro Collins and one to Vasbert Drakes. I completely agreed with the West Indies team management. The West Indies team and the Indian skipper Ganguly wanted the entire stadium to be cleared. We started with the West Stand, but there was no time for play to resume. Hence I awarded the match to India because 25 overs had been completed for a result to be determined and also because Ganguly and Sehwag had given India a fantastic start," said the Match Referee Mike Procter.

After the Nagpur match, Procter had said that he had decided to cancel matches at the first recurrence of crowd trouble from the Rajkot one-day international onwards. It was after an hour and 23 minutes (at 4.45 p.m.) that he decided to abandon the match and award it to India. After the announcement was made the 20,000-odd spectators left the Rajkot Municipal Corporation Stadium without creating a ruckus.