'It doesn't matter where Brian Lara bats' - Lara
It's a strange situation to be in when, having ended the day on a dominant position, you're questioned on a selectorial decision. Brian Lara patiently explained the reasons for the omission of Runako Morton, the local boy, adding that he wasn't one to "play politics". He was upbeat at his batsmen's performance but hoped they could kick on and make this start count.
"I think our plan had to be different," he said about the strategy for the day. "We were coming up against a side that is scoring in excess of 500 runs and it was a situation that we'd like to be in ourselves. We did talk last night about the way we were getting out, try to limit that as much as possible. And each batsman went through his dismissals and the way the Indian bowlers have been bowling to them. So that's an improvement. You saw today that the guys trying to get their foot out of the way, we've experienced a lot of lbw decisions so I think it's a great improvement.
"We set ourselves for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be some hard work, we need to set ourselves to bat similar to India. We need to bat five sessions and maybe bat till the end of tomorrow and get as much runs as possible. That's not going to come easily. India bowled pretty well today and the players were pretty aggressive. They didn't get the success but we got to keep in our mind that they've still got world-class bowlers and we've got to be on our feet. There's no great pace [in the pitch]. What we're hoping is that as the game goes on and the more we bat on it, running up and down, with the bowlers running on it, it can deteriorate. Hopefully, we're getting the best part of the pitch at the moment and we've to try to use it for the whole of tomorrow and take it from there."
West Indies were helped by the fact that Brian Jerling, the South African umpire making his Test debut, refused to budge when the ball repeatedly struck the pads, sometimes in adjacent positions. Lara explained why the Indian bowlers were bound to hit the pads more often. "Anil Kumble would hit the pads more often. He bowls over off stump, between wicket to wicket majority of the time and that's where he gets most of his wickets. He tries to run the left-handers to slip or lbw, tries to get the right-handers out in front of the bat or lbw as well. It's not something specific to West Indian batsmen. Even the Indian fast bowlers try to bring it in, with some reverse-swing, and get a bowled or lbw unlike our bowlers who usually bowl it in the channel outside off stump and try to get the batsmen out in the slips and behind."
On why he didn't bat at No.3, having successfully managed a hundred from that position in just the previous innings, Lara said: "At this stage of his career it doesn't matter where Brian Lara bats. It's important that a guy stands up and wants to bat in that position. It's a pivotal position in any batting order and [Ramnaresh] Sarwan is one of the premier batsmen in our team. And if he puts up his hand and wants to do it, especially with low scores behind him, it shows a lot of character. And you're seeing the results of it all today."
But the matter that provoked the most anguished reply involved Morton, the boy from Nevis who is a local favourite. "I don't play politics. If there's one thing I don't have, it's an insular bone. Also, we're playing two genuine openers. They came out of New Zealand batting really well. Chasing 298, they had a good partnership and came out really well. When the door's open for Runako Morton, the position was there because of credit. He will definitely get a run. I know Runako Morton, the guys love Runako Morton and he did well in New Zealand. He's still here and hereabouts .... Daren is trying to repay the selectors or those who put him there."
He elaborated on Ganga's predicament, who had done a fine job to blunt the Indian attack and see the day through. "Ganga played excellently. I had a chat with him this morning and he seemed to bat differently while playing as captain for T&T compared to playing for West Indies. People are always on his back, I suppose he's always playing for his position. While as captain he has that responsibility and he seems to shake everything else off and bats excellently. We had a chat at breakfast, I don't know if that helped but definitely he showed a lot more responsibility and looked more assured."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo