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West Indies v India, 1st Test, Antigua, 1st day

'I thought it was a 200 wicket': Lara

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Antigua

June 2, 2006

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Lara: 'Dravid batted a lot of overs but never looked in. It's that kind of pitch' © Getty Images
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Two members from each side spoke to the press at the end of the day and it was the one who hadn't taken the field all day who caused all the mirth. Ravi Sawant, the vice-president of the Mumbai Cricket Association who is currently the manager of the Indian side, came out and said that Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan weren't dropped but "rested". Even before the giggles had died down, he added that VRV Singh was in no way inexperienced and had played several times for India A.

There are different ways to view this statement. Either Sawant was just coming to terms with his managerial role, having joined the team only for the Tests, or India were in fact adopting a rotation policy. If the first is true, can the Indian board realise it's high time it had a full-time media manager? If not, will the team management have the courage to continue the process despite defeat? Some of these questions will be answered during the course of this Test, others will remain mysteries. As for VRV, even he will admit that he's inexperienced. Let's leave it there.

Now to the cricket. Despite having a good day in the office, Brian Lara was a tad disappointed. "After the first few balls, I thought it was a 200 wicket," he stated. "It was good to have them at 180 for 7 but it was a good stand between Anil [Kumble] and Sreesanth. They batted really well. We had a good day. But we kept them to below three runs an over. It was not good to give 50 runs in the first ten odd overs, and the bowling in the last part of the day was also not professional on our part. We did well in between to pull things back. We didn't let the likes of [Rahul] Dravid to get away. [Mahendra Singh] Dhoni came in to get some runs going, and we were able to hold him as well."

Lara added that the pitch suited his set of bowlers but added that he'd ideally like his side to bat only once. "It was a very good toss to lose," he continued. "I looked at the pitch and knew that there was something in it for the fast bowlers upfront. As the match goes on, there's going to be some wear and tear and it's a bit of a worry for the last innings. But if we make full use of our first innings and put the pressure on India and get in front in a big way, we can actually get an advantage.

"I think it [the pitch] is going to play best over the next two days, so that's when we'll get a chance to bat. We need to take the responsibility and bat well. I think it's going to gradually get tougher - there's a lot of grass, lot of roots there - so it's not going to be easier. I expect that to come to the surface and play a part. If we can settle our problems in the first innings itself, it will be good for us. As you can see, Dravid batted a lot of overs but never looked in. It's that kind of pitch. We need to gain the psychological advantage and get ahead of them."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo

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