June 2, 2002

Rain and Gayle lash India

The Queen's Park Oval at Trinidad might be one of India's favourite away grounds but that did not save them from a thrashing at the hands of the West Indians on Saturday.

The game began on a sombre note with the players observing a minute's silence in memory of the recently departed Subhash Gupte, whom I consider to be the greatest leg-spinner the game has seen, and Hansie Cronje.

I feel sorry for the present generation of cricket lovers who never saw the great Gupte in action. He was a genius in the true sense of the word and could work magic on any wicket and against any batsman. I would venture to say that if he were playing now, he would have claimed 500 Test wickets with ease, considering the high quality of fielding support that he would be getting.

I still cherish the memory of playing against the great man in a Central Zone v South Zone encounter at Bangalore. In the course of a face-saving partnership for South which I forged in the company of the late Kripal Singh, I picked up various nuances of the art of spin bowling from the maestro. Truly, it was a blessed moment for me.

Naturally, at the start of the match, I then thought that the Indians, after electing to bat, would spare no effort in earning a win that they could subsequently dedicate to memory of the late genius. But the rain seemed to have played spoilsport as far as they were concerned. They clearly seemed to lack a gameplan to tackle the contingency of batting first in a contest truncated to a 25-over-a-side affair.

Batsman after batsman started going for quick runs, as the tourists played into the hands of the West Indies side who bundled them out for 123 runs. The home side were favourites from thereon and the only hope the Indians lay in the prospect of another shower washing out the match before the West Indies reached the modest victory target.

A shower did come early on in the West Indies innings but it was an unwelcome sight for the Indians. In the seventh over of the home team's innings bowled by Tinu Yohanan it rained boundaries as West Indies opener Chris Gayle, who had begun middling the ball well, opened his broad shoulders and plundered 25 runs. The savage attack effectively sealed the fate of the match.

Gayle and his partner Wavell Hinds went on to add 117 runs at well over a run a ball and this meant that the West Indies easily achieved the series-leveling win that they had been seeking at the start of the match.

The home team proved that they were ready to take the bull by the horns in a must-win encounter and their aggressive approach paid rich dividends indeed. Now, with the series hanging in the balance, it is up to the Indians to prove that they can bounce back and at least win the one-day series before leaving the Caribbean.