The match lacked quality

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

IT was a pity that such a majestic venue got such a mediocre contest. After some high-scoring matches, involving some adventurous and daring cricket by either team, the sixth one-dayer at the Barkatullah Khan Stadium lacked quality. The feature of the contest, apart from the victory for India, was the sporting crowd. It cheered the Indians and the West Indians in the hope of a cracker of a contest. In the end, an Indian victory may have come as a consolation for the spectators, who came in for praise from both the camps.

Ajit Agarkar's outing in Jodhpur was rewarding. He picked up three wickets as well as the Man of the Match award.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The pitch was said to be the villain, but the bowlers differed when it came to analysing the match. After being belted in five successive matches, bowlers in the two teams celebrated the occasion with some skilful stuff on a surface which tested the potential of the batsmen. For someone like Ajit Agarkar or Murali Kartik, it was a great opportunity to push their claims, and they grabbed the chance with some wily bowling.

True, one-day cricket is all about batsmen slamming the ball around but the bowlers had been subjected to humiliation despite trying their best. "It's very hard on the bowlers to contain the batsmen on flat tracks," remarked veteran Javagal Srinath, who felt the need to protect the young bowlers.

Given the background of the one-day series, it was thus interesting to see the batsmen work hard to get their runs. The opening spell by Srinath and Agarkar, each starting with a maiden, showed the change in the trend. Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds often could not get the ball off the square and their failure had a big impact on the West Indies not being able to make a match of it.

Murali Kartik is jubilant after dislodging the bails of Ramnaresh Sarwan.-V. V. KRISHNAN

"We stopped 30-40 runs short of an ideal total on this track. It was not the quickest pitches and even the bounce was not favourable to stroke play," conceded West Indies skipper Carl Hooper. When asked if he missed a spinner, Hooper remarked "not really. The fast bowlers did a good job."

It was a particularly good match for left-arm spinner Kartik. How important can backing from the captain be was evident from the manner in which Kartik served the team's interest. For some reason, Sourav Ganguly had shown little faith in left-arm spinners and was particularly harsh on Kartik. The Railway spinner was accused of having attitude problems with none really making an effort to talk to him.

Rahul Dravid, who proved to be an excellent captain, helped Kartik bowl with a lot of confidence. "I thought he bowled pretty well. He delivered when it mattered," said Dravid, who praised the bowlers for giving the team the chance to level the series. "Ajit and Srinath gave us a splendid start and then it was a matter of sticking to a good line and length," said Dravid.

Sanjay Bangar too had his moments. Here he exults after taking the wicket of Vasbert Drakes.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Kartik's return to the team should be an asset, given the cricketer's mental toughness to take on a challenge. He not only provides variety to the attack but stands out for his competitive zeal. The delivery with which he beat Marlon Samuels was a beauty, as was the ball with which he snared Ramnaresh Sarwan. The ball spun on both the occasions to baffle the batsmen and what impressed was Kartik's willingness to experiment. He was not averse to flighting the ball and this was a welcome change from the past few contests where Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh tended to bowl faster once they got the stick from the West Indians. In this match, Shivnarine Chanderpaul compiled a half-century even as Hooper and Ricardo Powell came up with cameos.

Kartik provided ideal support to Srinath and Agarkar and then Sanjay Bangar too joined the list with some accurate bowling. The two wickets that he took and the crucial runs he made to ensure there were no alarms should now establish Bangar as a strong contender for a place in the team for the World Cup. Bangar has improved his cricket immensely, graduating from the benches to become a key member. "I aim to improve further and play more match-winning roles for the team," said the modest Bangar.

Rahul Dravid has done his job and Ridley Jacobs is run out.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The match on the whole brought out the bowling skills of Kartik, Agarkar and Bangar and this trio showed the way for the batsmen to take on the responsibility. The West Indies did not prove to be easy meat and it needed the experience of Dravid to ensure the Indian camp did not mess up the chase.

The cool manner in which Dravid went about his job suited the Indians after Dinesh Mongia, Virender Sehwag and V. V. S. Laxman played ambitious strokes and raised hopes in the West Indies camp. India gained from Dravid's solid performance in the middle. Yuvraj Singh joined him and the two set up the chase, with a disciplined partnership. The half-century that he scored should go a long way in helping Yuvraj regain his confidence. Even though Dravid and Yuvraj fell in quick succession and then Reetinder Singh Sodhi played a reckless stroke, India was home, thanks to Bangar assuming the role of a batsman who revels in finishing the job.

Dinesh Mongia walks back even as bowler Drakes, 'keeper Jacobs and Carl Hooper (extreme right) celebrate his dismissal.-V. V. KRISHNAN

The scores:

West Indies: C. Gayle lbw b Kartik 27; W. Hinds c Mongia b Agarkar 1; M. Samuels b Kartik 3; R. Sarwan b Kartik 14; S. Chanderpaul c Dravid b Agarkar 58; R. Powell lbw b Sehwag 29; C. Hooper c & b Bangar 38; R. Jacobs (run out) 9; V. Drakes b Bangar 0; P. Collins c Bangar b Agarkar 2; C. Collymore (not out) 2. Extras (b-1, lb-8, w-7, nb-2) 18. Total (in 46.3 overs) 201.

Fall of wickets: 1-34, 2-42, 3-47, 4-74, 5-135, 6-183, 7-193, 8-193, 9-197.

India bowling: Srinath 8.3-1-28-0, Agarkar 9-1-24-3, Bangar 10-2-39-2, Kartik 10-1-36-3, Mongia 3-0-24-0, Sehwag 6-0-41-1.

India: D. Mongia c Jacobs b Drakes 5; V. Sehwag c Samuels b Drakes 18; V. V. S. Laxman c Gayle b Collins 7; R. Dravid c Powell b Drakes 58; Yuvraj Singh c Powell b Collymore 54; M. Kaif c Powell b Collins 15; R. Sodhi c Jacobs b Collymore 1; S. Bangar (not out) 32; A. Agarkar (not out) 6. Extras (w-2, nb-4) 6. Total (for seven wkts. in 46.2 overs) 202.

Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-26, 3-48, 4-147, 5-147, 6-148, 7-187.

West Indies bowling: Collins 10-1-38-2, Drakes 10-0-38-3, Collymore 9.2-0-42-2, Hooper 4-0-19-0, Gayle 4-0-28-0, Samuels 9-0-37-0.

A pleasing display

FOR long groomed as a candidate for the job of all-rounder, Ajit Agarkar gradually seems to have taken a few steps towards achieving that goal.

A gritty cricketer, Agarkar had made a big impression with his batting at Jamshedpur when he missed a maiden one-day century. But then he was shown the door for not being able to excel with the ball. "His job is to essentially bowl well," was the argument by one of the National selectors.

So Agarkar bowled well at Jodhpur after having shaped Mumbai's outright win over Delhi in the Ranji Trophy. He wrecked Delhi with his medium-pace and then carried on the good work at Jodhpur, his line and length being an outstanding feature of his bowling. Even Carl Hooper gave credit to the Mumbai seamer, who was adjudged the Man of the Match.

Agarkar bowled with craft as he used the slower one to keep the batsmen guessing and struck a nagging line to make an early impression that helped the Indians maintain pressure and eventually shut the opposition out. "The spell in the Ranji Trophy match (against Delhi) helped me get the rhythm. Winning the match was a good feeling and I'm glad I could extend it to playing a winning role for India too," said Agarkar.

It was a pleasing show by Agarkar, who began with a maiden. "It has been a great tournament for the bowlers and it feels good to win the Man of the Match.

The track was not very easy to play shots on and it helped," said Agarkar, who did well to bowl wicket-to-wicket. It worked very well at Jodhpur, giving the Mumbai seamer confidence for the season ahead. The all-rounder came up with some sterling performances for the India 'A' team but somehow has played below his potential when faced with challenges.

The series against the West Indies may not have established Agarkar as an all-rounder, but it has confirmed the opinion of some that he, along with Sanjay Bangar, is the best bet to fill the slot of the all-rounder. By bowling wicket-to-wicket and sticking to the basics at Jodhpur, Agarkar showed that he can learn and adapt if he puts his mind to the job. The team, as Dravid pointed out, expects more such performances from Agarkar in the season ahead.