The wait was worth it for home supporters

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

THE crowd waited in anticipation. They had thronged the stadium from seven in the morning coming from distant places to watch what they expected would be an exciting one-day match. After the disappointment of Kingston and the loss at Bridgetown, the West Indian fans had been looking forward to the encounter at the Queens Park Oval. Well, the wait was worth it as the West Indies won the contest in a comfortable manner, dominating the game all the way.

True, Chris Gayle crafted a match-winning effort for the West Indies, but the real heroes of the day were the members of the ground staff. Hopes of a match receded every time a shower hit the Queens Park Oval, but the ground staff did not give up at any stage. They stood in rain and when the sun broke out, they worked tirelessly to get the game going, even if it meant that it was a reduced overs contest.

Chris Gayle, the Man of the Match winner, with his opening partner Wavell Hinds. "We understand each other well," says Gayle about his pal Hinds.-V. V. KRISHNAN

But everyone was keen to play. "People had come from across the world and it would've been extremely disappointing if they hadn't got a match. We wanted to play the match for the spectators and the West Indies Cricket Board," said the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly.

It was bound to be slam-bang cricket but the Indians messed it up by playing some poor shots all through the innings. "Our experience showed. It was bad shot selection. We just didn't raise any partnership and that was one big reason for the defeat. Unless you have wickets in hand, it becomes difficult to plan the innings. It was a lesson we learnt the hard way but I'm happy the teams got a game. They had to get out there and make the most of what the ground staff had done for them," said coach John Wright.

Wright admitted "we didn't play well at all. We should have batted much better than what we did but we just couldn't achieve what we had set out for."

Chris Gayle drives Yohannan to the fence. The opener played an entertaining knock.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Once India posted just 123 on electing to bat, it had little chance to make a match if it. There was no doubt that it was bad batting and Ganguly conceded "we batted very poorly. They played better than us. We just didn't bat well enough in the 25 overs. There weren't enough runs on the board to defend. We were actually in no position to win the game at any point."

The India skipper also pointed out the fact that the batsmen tried too many shots. "It was a good pitch to bat on but we just didn't apply well enough. In fact 150 balls were enough to set a decent target but we just didn't focus on the job."

In the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, out with a shoulder strain, the Indian batting once again stood exposed. There was a distinct lack of depth in such a situation where the batsmen had to adapt. From the time Virender Sehwag was out to the third ball of the Indian innings, and his first, there was no method to the Indian batting. Even as the batsmen flung the bat around, only Ganguly managed to come up with some sensible batting to try and make a match of it. But he lacked support. Rahul Dravid tried to retrieve the situation but he too fell short of the desired target as the West Indians had the right bowlers to keep the Indians under pressure.

Corey Collymore appeals for caught behind. Ajit Agarkar, who was given out, was one of Collymore's three victims in the match.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Corey Collymore bowled splendidly to leave an impression. The Barbadian was on the job from the first over and may have qualified for the Man of the Match honours but for Gayle playing an outstanding innings. Collymore and Pedro Collins struck an excellent line to leave the batsmen chocked. Their bowling was the key factor in West Indies recording such an easy victory.

For Tinu Yohannan the match was a nightmare but also a lesson at the right time. After bowling so well in the preceding match, Yohannan went for 50 runs in five overs. Wright stood by the young Kerala paceman. "He's a young lad and will learn over the years. It was only his second match and I'm sure it was just one of those bad days," said Wright.

Ganguly too defended his bowlers. "They all tried their best and I have no complaints. They had a very small target to defend," said Ganguly. That summed up the match for the Indians. They just did not bat well enough to think of a victory.

The scores:

India: S. Ganguly lbw b Collymore 39; V. Sehwag c Lara b Dillon 0; D. Mongia b Cuffy 13; V. V. S. Laxman (run out) 2; Yuveraj Singh c Jacobs b Collins 1; R. Dravid b Hooper 28; M. Kaif c Gayle b Collymore 12; A. Agarkar c Jacobs b Collymore 0; Zaheer Khan b Hooper 7; Harbhajan Singh c Jacobs b Collins 6; T. Yohannan (not out) 2. Extras (lb-5, nb-4, w-4) 13. Total (in 25 overs) 123.

V. V. S. Laxman is run out for a cheap score.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-45, 3-53, 4-56, 5-66, 6-86, 7-86, 8-110, 9-118.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 5-0-24-1, Cuffy 5-0-40-1, Collins 5-0-21-2, Collymore 5-1-14-3, Hooper 5-0-19-2.

West Indies: C. Gayle c Ganguly b Zaheer 84; W. Hinds b Yohannan 30; R. Sarwan b Yohannan 1; B. Lara (not out) 4; C. Hooper (not out) 1. Extras (nb-3, w-1) 4. Total (for three wkts. in 22.1 overs) 124.

Fall of wickets: 1-117, 2-117, 3-118.

India bowling: Zaheer 5-0-14-1, Yohannan 5-0-50-2, Agarkar 4-1-14-0, Harbhajan 5-1-22-0, Sehwag 3.1-0-24-0.

He has class

THE knock was just in keeping with his potential. For, Chris Gayle has been considered a batsman with immense promise and quite a few former cricketers, including Viv Richards, have had a high opinion of this left-handed Jamaican, who smashed the Indian bowlers to all corners at the Queens Park Oval.

Gayle's innings was the decisive factor no doubt but then it was one good innings after many failures for this gifted batsman. Having made his mark on the tour to Zimbabwe last year, Gayle had struggled to get his form back.

"I must make use of this knock. I had a slow start but things worked my way. Our bowlers had bowled well and I was just trying to play my role. I was happy to play a supportive role to keep up the good work of our bowlers. This innings was my way of giving something to the team after the bowlers had put us in a winning position," said Gayle.

The modest Gayle was underplaying his magnificent knock which was paced so well. At the end of it he left the Indian bowlers in a shambles, particularly Tinu Yohannan who gave away 25 runs in one over.

The tall and talented Gayle is considered the best bet to open the innings for the West Indies. The general impression among the former players is that he is the right man to be groomed and Gayle has been engaged in trying to sort out a few technical shortcomings, especially against the moving ball.

His rapport with Wavell Hinds is another strong point in West Indies placing such faith in this opening pair. "He's a good friend and we understand each other well. We play for each other. I just want to build on this innings," said the jovial Gayle, who is liked by his mates for his positive batting. His innings of 84 off 67 balls was just Gayle's way of giving the right message to his fans. He is ready for bigger battles now.