Lara's final ARG fling
It was a cruel twist of fate that Brian Lara, playing his last innings on a ground where he's made 1632 golden runs in 13 previous games, was dismissed for a duck. Lara, though, would remember the nail-biting contest that panned out, with West Indies clinging on for a memorable draw.
"The ARG (Antigua Recreation Ground) has been tremendous for me," he said at the end of the day, "to hold the record twice is an exceptional feat. I will always remember this ground. After this press conference, I'm going to go out there and get some grass, get some turf. It's been a tremendous ground for West Indies cricket and we've enjoyed playing cricket on it. We've enjoyed the atmosphere - Chickie [the main DJ], Gravey [the famous entertainer]. It was a great Test match. To play a game that came down till the last ball, and yet where no team won shows what a great Test match it was. I thought it was an exceptional Test match and a great way to end cricket at ARG."
Despite not having the services of Fidel Edwards and Corey Collymore for different stages of the second innings, Lara felt that West Indies had done well to hang on. "With a lead of 130 in the first innings, the fact that we lost Fidel Edwards very early in the game and the fact that Corey Collymore wasn't 100% going into the second innings, we did a great job ... You've got to realise that he's our top performer with the ball and we want him for the rest of the series. We had a sort of grip on the game before India took it. The last day was a day where we tried as much as possible. I thought it was a fair result. I thought our guys batted really well."
What of the batting abilities shown by No.10 and No.11, and did he think of sending one higher than the other? "Corey, we know, can keep the ball out. Fidel can bat. He could not run but he could bat. And there was no reason to take away his No.10 position." The two were not the only ones in the middle; they managed with a little help from Daren Ganga, Edwards's runner. "Ganga is as good an option as we could choose," Lara revealed. "He's a successful captain for T&T and he knows what exactly needed to happen out there. We didn't have that many options - we had a few injuries in the dressing-room. It was not a tactical ploy. Ganga was the right person, probably the only person in terms of the situation.
"Daren played a very important part. One of the questions I asked him was how did it feel not being able to play a hand in the game. He said it was difficult, but he knew what to do. His job wasn't just to run for Fidel, his job was to marshal things out there and be the old head and experienced person guiding the other players."
Lara refused to complain about the umpiring in the game - "They have a very tough job ... it's a job that we shouldn't be too critical of" - but he spoke about what had agitated him so much with regard to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's dismissal at the end of the fourth day. "At the end of the day, it's a sport you're playing and you got to trust the guy who you're playing against. There are situations where we can't come to a decision. Of course, it's left to the umpires. But if we can't back each other as a team, it doesn't say much for the sport. I just felt that the spirit of the game was being tested. As human beings, we all make mistakes but we all want to see the betterment of the game. And I think the best came out at the end of it. I had a chat with the umpires, match referee and Rahul Dravid after the day and it sort of smoothed the situation up for the last day. It took so long - 15 minutes for 24 big men to come to a decision. I thought it was ridiculous."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo