Joined: 21 October 2006
No Closer To The Truth
If India's first practice match against the Dutch did little to resolve the issues that confront the team, the second, against West Indies, did less. A shambolic batting performance from the West Indies, where only two batsmen got to double figures meant that the target India were left with was a mere 86.
And you would think this would have given Virender Sehwag the perfect opportunity to make the most of the last chance to fine-tune his game and hit the ground running when the serious competition begins. With no pressure on account of the target Sehwag could either have blasted his way out of the rut he is so firmly ensconced in - and some have recommended that approach - or alternatively, he could have given up any attempt to score runs and just blocked, choosing to spend time in the middle. In reality, he could have done pretty much anything he wanted to.
What he did end up doing was not what he does best, but what his fans fear the most. The first ball he faced from Jerome Taylor was negotiated safely enough, going back and slightly across to defend a ball outside the off. Taylor shortened his length off the next ball, and Sehwag adjusted well, defending the ball off his body with soft hands. Off the next ball he faced, sent down by Daren Powell, Sehwag had a flash - not just in the brain but outside the off stump as well - feet glued firmly to their original position, and a considerable outside edge lodged safely in Denesh Ramdin's gloves.
Before the start of this match, Sehwag, talking to reporters, had said, "The backing I've received from Dravid has been a huge morale booster. I now want to justify the faith in me and live up to the expectations." What's more, Sehwag revealed that he had taken to meditation, to help him concentrate. When he returns to the dressing-room, he might get a copy of his three-ball stay at the crease on a DVD. He might want to meditate on that a bit before he walks out to bat in India's next game.
The second key aspect this game told us was that Irfan Pathan was working to a plan, not attempting to generate any pace, just trying to get the ball in the right areas and rediscover the rhythm that allows the ball to swing regularly. Pathan has lost pace in recent times, but even he is capable of much more than the 105-115 kmh range, which is the zone he was operating in for the best part of his spell. But, sometimes, cutting down on pace does nothing for rhythm, and that was the case today. Pathan sprayed the ball on both sides of the stumps, overpitched to the extent that some balls bounced well past the stumps, and generally, appeared to do his cause no good.
But, where Pathan can take something out of this game, unlike Sehwag, is that he drew success - and that does wonders for confidence, something Pathan has been lacking - despite not being anywhere near his best. Brian Lara popped back a return catch to a dolly that he probably receives more often in the backyard from his young daughter Sydney than from international bowlers.
Kieron Pollard played a millionaire's drive to a gentle floater that was drifting harmlessly far outside the off stump and nicked to the keeper. Marlon Samuels, century one day, duck the next, walked right into a ball that was pitched on the stumps and straightened. Pathan himself will take the positives from 6-0-25-3, but those who watched carefully will know this was more thanks to the largesse of West Indies' batsmen rather than any mean swing bowling.
The man who made the most of the opportunity of an outing was Munaf Patel. His ability to land the ball on an irritatingly good length, and move the ball just enough to induce mistakes was very much in evidence, and the control he displayed means that the Indian pace attack - Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar, followed by Munaf - is beginning to look quite handy.
What's not looking that handy is this West Indian batting order. While Lara repeatedly calls for more responsibility from the men batting around him, and stresses on the need to develop more cricketers who can win matches, reducing the dependence on one or two players, the collapses continue to haunt West Indies. It's one thing to be unpredictable, another entirely for an entire group of individuals to collectively refuse to take up the slack when it's needed. On the bright side - and even the most incurable West Indian optimist will struggle to see one from this performance - the collapse has come in a game that matters little.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo
Joined: 11 February 2005
Joined: 21 October 2006
Joined: 23 June 2005
It was sad as West Indian to see the team failing so miserably and that to.. when they have a World Cup to win at home.Even though I believe that the WestIndians are not playing to their highest potential,We cannot deny the fact that India played some awesome cricket.I hope the WI recover sooon and play some cricket they played in India in the Champions Tournament.
Brian Lara chose to bat becuase he wanted to test the team if they are placed to bat first...and he also wanted to test how Samuels will play in the lower order..So for him this was jus a testing match but losing placed a phycological disadvantange on the team
Joined: 24 December 2006
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Joined: 10 November 2006
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