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Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in St Lucia
June 15, 2006
He might have given a lesson in the art of shutting out a game, battling for six-and-a-half hours on a slow pitch, but Brian Lara was keen that the surfaces for the next two games are a lot livelier. He was proud of the way his team had scrapped on the final day, as if taking a cue from the Soca Warriors' hard-earned draw against Sweden on Saturday, but came down on the pitch, which he felt they hadn't cashed in on the home advantage.
"The only time we were in front on the nine days of cricket was when we got a true Test pitch," he said referring to the first two days in Antigua. "It was a situation where the fast bowlers had a say in the first couple of days and the the spinners took care of it later in the match. I would love to see St Kitts and Jamaica show that they are capable of producing fair pitches. Nothing that would be terrible for Test cricket - too green or anything - but the fact is we need good Test cricket. In this particular match, after the first two days, it was difficult for us to do anything. The pitch was dusting already, the spinners were coming in - it didn't spin or bounce but it was tough to score.
"The Indians will be accustomed to this - this is what you get in Madras or Bombay - and it's tough for us. We picked four fast bowlers after seeing a tinge of green. In hindsight we should have picked a spinner. But I was confident of our fast bowling and as batters we are better equipped against the Indian fast bowling. Let's make it fair. Make it a situation when the boys are going to enjoy the first two days bowling on the pitch and if it deteriorates later on - if the spinners come into play - so be it. We are very buoyant after this result and we're looking forward to the next ten days of Test cricket."
The series was kept at 0-0 thanks largely to Lara's masterful century, slow but vital. "It was something that the situation dictated," he said of his approach. "I was still able to get a hundred in two sessions. This particular innings seemed to alter a couple of rash shots. It was a situation where I needed to get 50-60 runs under my belt and, hopefully, move on form there. You've got to understand that there will be occasions that you're going to be on top of the bowling and you're going to dictate to the bowlers. In other situations you got to dig deep, show character. At no point of time was I or the team on top of the bowling. The innings that you really enjoy are ones you tough out. My 153 against Australia in 1999 was much better than my 375 or 500, when you tough out and get the result. It's a situation like the first innings of a Test match when I need to be in a similar mood - consolidating and showing that the team benefits from a long innings from me ... I'm not sure how much of this I've played in the past but definitely I've realised I'm capable of batting for long periods without scoring doubles and triples. The amount of balls I faced today, I'd definitely be on 250 or something like that. But it will be beneficial for the team if I can spend time in the middle."
It was only the third instance in two years that Lara walked in at No.3 - he'd made 400 not out and 83 in the last two instances - but he revealed the strategy behind the move: "It's a situation to discuss with the coaching staff and with [Ramnaresh] Sarwan as well. No. 3 is not just the best batsman in the team but he also sends a message to the guys who are going out to bat. If the pitch is difficult - he's got to send a message saying we need to tough it out there and if it's easy you got to dictate. Lot of guys feed off the No. 3 batsman and that's where I'd like to see Sarwan do a lot more. He did pretty well in the shorter version of the game but in the Test matches it is a more pivotal position in any team ... You don't want to be two down after the first five or ten overs. Also the Indian fast bowlers were getting the ball the nip back to the right-handers and I thought a left-hander would be the best person to bat."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
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