The West Indians have proved to be worthy opponents
by Partab Ramchand

Event:India in West Indies 2006

DateLine: 22nd May 2006


One match ends with one ball to spare. The other ends with one run separating the teams. The India – West Indies one-day series could not have got off to a more pulsating start. One can safely bet on more such nail biting finishes in the three remaining matches and I would term it as a major surprise if the winner of the series is spotted before the decider at Trinidad on May 28.


I had predicted a closely fought contest in my preview but I had not bargained for such dramatic encounters. However as the two games have shown the teams are evenly matched. India’s superior recent record and their higher ranking is nullified by the fact that they are playing away from the sub continent while West Indies at home almost always seem to have the ability to rise to the occasion and pull a rabbit out of the hat despite an unhappy record of inconsistent performances of late. Moreover under Brian Lara they seem to be getting their act together and the Indian think tank will have to work overtime to halt the resurgence.


Both teams have had their share of ups and downs so far. For the Indians who were touted as favourites on the eve of the series it must have been particularly galling not to be able to get 199 runs to clinch the second ODI. True, the pitch was a bit on the slow side but it was not the kind of surface on which a star studded batting line up should be bowled out for less than 200. Full marks however to the West Indies for picking up some astounding catches, bowling tidily and most of all for keeping their nerve in the tense situation.


On the other hand the West Indians must be disappointed at not being able to post a total of around 270 in the first match after the rousing start given by the openers. That would have assured them victory but they just did not get enough runs in the last five overs. The Indians even though they won only off the penultimate ball always seemed to have things under control following the fourth wicket century partnership between Rahul Dravid and Md Kaif. But the batting of Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan will be a source of comfort to the home team. They will be less than comfortable about the lack of concentration displayed by the other batsmen. The bowling however has performed far above expectations and the youngsters have not been overawed by the big names in the Indian line up.


The Indians too will be happier with the bowling than with the batting. Harbhajan Singh has underlined his craftiness while Ajit Agarkar has shown that there is no substitute for experience. And against the West Indies it is always shrewd policy to play two spinners and Rajesh Pawar and Harbhajan in tandem had the Caribbean batsmen in knots in the second game. The batting on the basis of what we have seen in the two games is a bit of a worry but then Dravid and company should realize that they will not always be playing in the flat tracks available in the sub continent.


The mind games too have already started. Greg Chappell termed the West Indians as chokers after they lost the first game narrowly a charge that Lara rejected. But in the second game it was the Indian team that crumbled under pressure at a crucial stage leaving the West Indian captain to reckon that in fact the visitors were chokers. The Indians already have the unwanted reputation of faltering in the final of a tournament. They cannot afford to fumble anymore in the series for the West Indians have already shown that they are worthy opponents.


(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)