A lacklustre West Indian performance
After two washed-out matches at Sabina Park, it was a relief to get some cricket underway again with the third one-day international at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. The pitch looked like a cracker, full of runs and holding plenty of promise for a high-scoring one-dayer. Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain, won the toss and, as expected, asked the West Indies to bat first.
The hosts' batting impressed me very little. The West Indian batsmen - perhaps as a result of their 2-1 Test win over India - looked overconfident and complacent. The batting on display oozed carelessness, and it was no surprise that the Indian bowlers capitalised on that to the fullest extent.
The Indian attack, for its part, looked particularly sharp and incisive. I was impressed especially with Tinu Yohannan, who struck me as a very quick learner. His line was excellent, and he was prepared to attack the batsman and make him play at the ball all the time. In my opinion, that is what good bowling is all about.
The only West Indian batsman who seemed prepared to stick around and graft his runs was the skipper, Carl Hooper. In possibly the form of his life, Hooper seemed to have no trouble at all with the pitch or the bowling, and his partnership with Ramnaresh Sarwan, at one stage, looked to take the West Indies to a considerably strong total.
Sarwan's dismissal was the turning-point. After the youngster, none appeared willing to stick with Hooper at the crease and give him the support he so desperately needed. Admittedly, he played a knock of considerable brilliance, but even he must have known that once Shivnarine Chanderpaul - the West Indies' Mr Dependable at the moment - was brilliantly run out, it was going to be an uphill struggle.
India were helped in no small measure by the fact that the West Indies could not bat out their full quota of overs. That in itself meant that the target was not going to be an imposing one.
The Indian outfit during the match looked a very strong side. The fielding was sharp, and the captaincy was spot-on. Ganguly's bowling changes were well thought-out and effective. Once the work in the field was done, the batsmen had to merely buckle down to their task, and that they did with great efficacy.
With such an innings chasing such a moderate total, the Indian chase was always going to end with a win. Mongia, with his all-rounder performance, deserved the Man of the Match award in full. The West Indies, going by their lacklustre approach to the match, will have to do something extraordinary if they are to come back in this series.