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Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in Jamaica
June 29, 2006
In what has been a largely bland series, with phases of brilliance thrown in, one particular rivalry has hardly simmered. This might be India taking on West Indies but the two Australian coaches have had their axes to grind. Both have had turbulent times while in charge, both have earned reputations as hard taskmasters, both have created enemies through their approach, and, at the moment, both have plenty on their plate.
Bennett King must be in an awkward situation. Throughout the series, Brian Lara has walked into press conferences and criticised the selectors for some of their choices, going to the extent of saying that they weren't "singing from the same hymn sheet". King, for his part, is the fourth selector on the panel and possesses the vital casting vote. It can't be easy. Lara seems to want fast bowlers and has hinted at the likes of Tino Best and Jermaine Lawson. The selectors seem to think differently.
It has come down to a crucial selection quandary. West Indies retained their 13 from the previous Test but decided to wait on confirming the final number. "We've got 13 and have got some more deliberations tonight," said King, who with his vital casting vote, may ultimately matter most. "Whether that means someone would be added or subtracted would be known only on the morning. But we have got some thoughts going on. I think that we need a way when the ball gets older and the wicket gets flatter. We need to have something up your sleeve then, someone who is very, very quick, or a world-class spinner who can put pressure on the opposition. That's probably the area we are looking at tonight."
World-class spinners exist in the Caribbean, just that they are usually found in the rollicking night clubs and rotating, not a cricket ball, but their hips. "Very, very quick" is equally paradoxical. The choice is probably between Lawson, Daren Powell - both Jamaicans - and Best. Also, maybe they're waiting on Fidel Edwards's fitness. It's all very, very hazy and things will become clear around 24 hours before the match.
For Greg Chappell, the past few weeks have been a tough ride. First he watched the one-day side, that same side that had galloped to victory after victory, disintegrate. Then he watched as India squandered chance after chance to close out the first two Tests. The last two Test series have been mini-disasters - lost in Pakistan and drew with a second-string England at home. A draw here would give a feeling of stagnation, a loss would be quite calamitous. Chappell continues to reiterate that it's a young side - he says it so often that you feel happy that a set of men can forever be young - but results may turn out to be the ultimate judge.
"I have said many times before that winning and losing is not the most important thing," he said after the team's practice session at Melbourne Cricket Club. "It's something that keeps the wolves at bay but the important thing is that we keep improving with each game. And I think we have. We have had some positives that have come out of this series. Some of the young bowlers have had some terrific experience and that will stand them in good stead for the future, whatever that might be - whether the future is this game or the following games after that.
"Some of our batting has been really solid. VVS Laxman getting a hundred in the last Test match was important, [Mohammad] Kaif has got his first Test hundred behind him, Veeru [Sehwag] has been in good form, the captain continues to make runs, [Wasim] Jaffer has had a really good series. They are the positives; they are the things that I prefer to focus on. Because if we keep doing those things well, we are going to become a good Test match team. And that is what we are aiming for."
It was a routine practice session for both teams - India at Melbourne CC and West Indies at Kensington. The main highlight was probably Munaf Patel unleashing a fierce bouncer and smacking Sreesanth behind his left ear. "He got a bit of a shake-up," said Chappell, "got hit on the helmet this morning which spoilt his day a little bit. But he will be OK. John [Gloster] said that there doesn't appear to be any other problems, just a lump on his head and a bit of a bruised ego perhaps. But other than that, he's fine." Munaf usually enjoys hitting batsmen - growing up in Ikhar, he sent several of his friends to hospital - but this one might have been a bit too tricky to enjoy.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
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