West Indies seek emphatic win
It's been ten years since Brian Lara played in Jaipur and things have certainly changed at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium. Observing the face-lift at the ground, one of the journalists remembered the horror years - in the '90s, when pressmen were locked inside the media area, to prevent fans from forcing themselves into the zone. The door used to be opened only during the breaks and, just in case you had the bad luck of ending up with an upset tummy, you were doomed.
Going by the indications from the Rajasthan Cricket Association, nobody is going to be jailed tomorrow. Worryingly, there aren't expected to be too many people dying to get into the stadium when West Indies and Bangladesh clash to qualify for the main draw of the Champions Trophy. Bangladesh showed a lot of promising signs in their opening game against Sri Lanka but tomorrow they'd need that and much more.
Going by Dav Whatmore's assessment, the pitch here is likely to behave like a Sri Lankan sandpit. "It certainly looks different than the one at Mohali. I'm not sure of the history here - there hasn't been a lot of history in this oval - and I'm not sure if it will have the same amount of bounce. I'm also not sure about amount of turn in the pitch." Of the nine ODIs here, five have been won by the team chasing, including the last game when Mahendra Singh Dhoni's unbeaten 183 helped India hunt down 299. A factor that would play a role tomorrow is the dew but, considering that it's the first game under lights, one can only wait and watch.
The toss may not matter too much for West Indies - considering the might of their batting line-up - but it's the fitness of their players that remained a worry. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Runako Morton - who had suffered a viral fever in Mohali - hadn't yet recovered while Dwayne Smith, who incurred the same problem here, missed the net session on match eve. Imran Khan, the media manager, stressed that none of them had been ruled out, adding that missing the nets is no indication of availability for the match. Bangladesh used three left-arm spinners in the previous game and they could serve them well if the track starts to take some turn tomorrow.
Not only do West Indies need to win but also need to do so emphatically. Well, finishing the game even before the lights came on - as they did while whipping Zimbabwe at Ahmedabad - might have been stretching it too far but Lara reiterated the need to win with handicaps. "If you play against a team lower ranked than yourselves, you must be able to give yourself a handicap," he added. "Bangladesh can play very good cricket but it's important that we win emphatically, it's important that we put the distance between them and us. It's not about chasing down a target in a certain number of overs or anything, just that you would know when you're forcing yourself on the opposition. That's what we're looking to do tomorrow."
But is anyone going to watch? The Rajasthan Cricket Association decided to provide an incentive for viewers. They sold three tickets in combination, for the two qualifying games along with the India-England game, and priced it at the same rate as one (almost equivalent to buy one, get two free). Unfortunately it didn't work and they finally began selling India-England single tickets today, which ended up being lapped up like hot cakes. There seems to be only one solution to eliminate the risk of empty stands. Turn back the clock, replace pressmen with public and lock them inside the stadium for a day. And just to cover all bases, don't even provide the break for lunch.
1 Chris Gayle, 2 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 3 Runako Morton, 4 Brian Lara (capt), 5 Ramnaresh Sarwan (vice-cap) 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Marlon Samuels, 8 Wavell Hinds, 9 Carlton Baugh (wk), 10 IDR Bradshaw, 11 Jerome Taylor.
1 Shahriar Nafees, 2 Mohammad Ashraful, 3Aftab Ahmed, 4 Saqibul Hasan, 5 Habibul Bashar (capt), 6 Farhad Reza, 7 Khaled Mashud (wk), 8 Mohammad Rafique, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Abdur Razzak, 11 Syed Rasel.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo