One-day internationals (4): India 3, West Indies 1
West Indies' whistle-stop tour of India, a hurried four-match series played less than two months before the World Cup, received more attention a week after it ended than while it was actually going on. Three of the games were close, but it was the match-fixing allegations against the Jamaican Marlon Samuels that attracted more notice.
The revelations by the Nagpur police, seven days after the series, threatened to shake the game. The police had picked up Samuels's telephone conversation with Mukesh Kochchar, an alleged bookmaker, at 11.30 p.m. the night before the first match. The transcript of the conversation, in which Samuels was heard discussing the composition of the team and bowling strategy, was released. The most intriguing detail was that Samuels, an offspinner who relies on firing the ball in flat, would be coming on as first change the following day (he eventually came on for the tenth over of the match). The last time he had bowled so early had been 20 one-day internationals previously, against Zimbabwe at Port-of-Spain.
The next day Kochchar - an Indian living in Dubai who described himself as a "father figure" to Samuels - denied being a bookmaker, and pledged to co-operate with any investigation. The ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit looked into the matter, then, late in 2007, the ICC asked the West Indies board to investigate further. Samuels, meanwhile, played on.
Still smarting from a 4-0 thrashing in South Africa, India found their feet in front of the packed stadiums back home. However, there was no real pattern to the series. With the games spread across four zones, the pitches were strikingly different. The teams went from a run-glut at sunny Nagpur to slow torture at muggy Cuttack. The last two surfaces were pancake-flat, but both games featured collapses brought on by reckless batting.
Throughout the series old hands came to the fore: Sourav Ganguly returned, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar produced a stunner apiece, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Rahul Dravid chugged along. Ganguly's oneday comeback was not without irony. Returning to Nagpur, where he had been booed two years before when he pulled out of a Test which India lost to Australia, he charmed his way to a splendid 98. Chanderpaul, displaying the sort of adaptability that has made him West Indies' most dependable batsman, took them close to victory in the first two matches, making the most of a belter at Nagpur but grinding it out on the Cuttack sticky. In the process he shone brighter than his team-mates.
Lara, in what turned out to be his final overseas tour, had a mixed time. He provided a brief glimpse of greatness at Nagpur, dazzled in Chennai, but lasted only two balls at Vadodara. He insisted that his side "knew how to chase", when asked about his decisions to field first, and spoke of fine-tuning ahead of the World Cup at home. But neither side really benefited from a series that was hastily organised after India called off their tour of New Zealand to gear up for the World Cup. And it was quaint planning for West Indies to charge off to the other side of the world just as the Caribbean stadiums were being readied for action. Both teams went on to have disappointing tournaments: India were knocked out in the first round and West Indies managed only a single win in the Super Eights.
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