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Wisden CricInfo staff
October 9, 2002
Close India 278 for 2 (Dravid 28*, Tendulkar 35*)
The story of West Indian cricket abroad over the past seven years is one that induces you to creep under the covers and hide. On this evidence, that rope-thin run will continue a while - as long as the players combine wretched ineptitude with a seemingly lackadaisical approach more suitable for the village green than international cricket.
After making some encouraging noises early on, courtesy of Mervyn Dillon and Pedro Collins, they fell away to finish the first day of the series teetering on the edge of a precipice. Virender Sehwag's scintillating hundred and a double century opening partnership saw their worst nightmares realised and at 278 for 2, India are well and truly in the box seats. If West Indies don't buck up and soon, the once-mighty will fall a few feet more.
Take no credit away from Sehwag though. After a cautious start, he was simply magnificent. The bowlers helped by feeding him a regular diet of deliveries outside off stump, deliveries that were either cut, driven or simply bludgeoned away. Sanjay Bangar took the crease occupation credo a tad too literally at times, but his belligerent 55 was a perfect counterweight to Sehwag's swashbuckling batting after lunch. And at times - as with a glorious straight six off Ryan Hinds - Bangar showed he could do some hitting of his own.
After tea, and with his brief seemingly fulfilled, Bangar went for broke, and India lost their first wicket, with a mere 201 on the board. He flicked at one from Dillon and Ramnaresh Sarwan at square leg took a superb diving catch. It saved the blushes of Cameron Cuffy, who had moments earlier fluffed a steepler running towards mid-off - much to the chagrin of the bowler, a certain Carl Hooper.
Sehwag followed suit minutes later, tickling one from Dillon down the legside for Ridley Jacobs to take an outstanding catch (213 for 2). A heaved six off Mahendra Nagamootoo had got him within touching distance of 150 but on this day, he had to settle for 147. On this performance though, there will be many such days.
Fifteen years ago against West Indies, India were shot out for 75 on a relaid pitch at the Kotla in Delhi. But when Sourav Ganguly decided to bat first today, there were no such devils in the 22 yards of clay and dirt, and no Courtney Walsh or Patrick Patterson in the opposing eleven either.
There was a testing spell from Dillon - notable for the probing off-stump line rather than pace - while Collins hit Sehwag flush on the helmet with a bouncer. The few runs that came in the first hour were the result of edges and deflections to third man, not any decisive strokeplay.
Mid-morning though, with Cuffy and Nagamootoo on, Sehwag - tired of the waiting game - flicked an invisible switch that unleashed a barrage of strokes. Cuffy was first to bear the brunt - driven twice backward of point before a gorgeous cover-drive brought the crowd to its feet. Nagamootoo was treated even more disdainfully. A misdirected flipper was helped on to the fine leg fence, in an over that also featured an uppish cover-drive and a flashing square cut.
Hooper got himself on and was promptly driven through the covers and with lunch nigh, he tossed the ball back to Collins. Cue a drive down to third man and an exquisite cover-drive that brought up Sehwag's fifty, and lunch. What followed after that was unpalatable for West Indies players and supporters alike.
Fuelled by a power bar or its Indian equivalent, he came out blasting and it was all West Indies could do to take cover. He raced to his hundred from 138 balls, with 19 fours and a six, as runs cascaded in the first hour after lunch. It was imperious stuff, against pace and spin alike. Dillon and Cuffy found the flashing blade bisecting the field whenever they erred a fraction in line or length. Hooper was driven nonchalantly through the covers for two fours, before Nagamootoo saw one disappear high over cover. He did offer one chance, but Dillon could only look away disgusted after Collins left a ferocious slash slip through his hands at deep third man.
Nagamootoo's cup of woe was filled when umpire Asoka de Silva turned down a vociferous appeal for caught behind against Bangar. Just to rub it in, Sehwag then thrashed him through the off side for four. He got to his hundred with a powerful swipe to the midwicket fence off Wavell Hinds and then appeared to lose some momentum as the heat and humidity reached an almost intolerable peak. After half an hour of stodge and slumber though, Ryan Hinds and his part-time left-arm spin were taken to. By the time West Indies trooped in for tea, analgesics may have been laid out next to the cups and saucers.
Sehwag's departure merely paved the way for Mumbai's favourite son, and Sachin Tendulkar showed enough signs in the evening light to suggest that he intends to be around for the long haul. A splendid cover-drive off Nagamootoo got him going and a flick and a square drive (which got him to 1000 runs for the calendar year) off Cuffy brought with them gestures of obeisance from the stands. A fierce cut off Sarwan late in the day flashed perilously close by slip, but it was one of those days for the visitors. Rahul Dravid was as calm, unflustered and classy as ever - playing two rollicking cut shots - and the portents for the morrow are very dark indeed, if you're an Indian of the occidental persuasion.
India 1 Sanjay Bangar, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Sourav Ganguly (capt), 6 VVS Laxman, 7 Parthiv Patel (wk), 8 Anil Kumble, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Javagal Srinath.
West Indies 1 Wavell Hinds, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Carl Hooper (capt), 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Ryan Hinds, 7 Ridley Jacobs (wk), 8 Mahendra Nagamootoo, 9 Mervyn Dillon, 10 Pedro Collins, 11 Cameron Cuffy.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden.com in India.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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