The Jodhpur one-day international was different from the previous five games for one reason - the nature of the pitch. It was not an ideal track for one-day cricket, with the ball not coming on to the bat. Stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid's decision to bat second, then, must have been based on the inferior spin bowling attack of the opposition. Against the likes of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, chasing a total on a track that was keeping low and getting slow would have proved suicidal.
That said, even against the West Indies, India almost stumbled at Jodhpur, making heavy weather of a modest run chase. What was required was for somebody to play through the innings. But sadly none emerged. In the end, it was left to Sanjay Bangar to steer India home with a brilliant cameo.
I feel all young players must look to emulate Bangar's example. Here is the most unassuming cricketer of recent times, one who has proved himself to be the ultimate team man. In Test cricket, he plays the role of the sheet anchor to perfection, while his attacking brand of batting in one-day cricket is the result of a lot of hard work.
The team management must feel proud for having found a player like him just ahead of the World Cup. I also thought that Bangar bowled very well in the Jodhpur one-dayer, claiming the valuable wicket of Carl Hooper. But it was with the bat that he proved what a champion player he is.
When all the players around him threw away their wickets, Bangar called upon his tremendous powers of concentration to make sure that he stayed on to score the winning runs. He is not a flamboyant player, but his utility value is immense. Bangar was my Man of the Match at Jodhpur.
But some of the other players, who had been given an opportunity by the selectors to prove themselves failed.
Dinesh Mongia, for one, made a mess of a great opportunity. I am sure that he would have come across similar tracks on numerous occasions in domestic cricket. But that did not seem to help him. With the level of competition for the batting places being high, his failure could cost him dearly. As for Reetinder Singh Sodhi, I just do not know what was going through his mind; he seemed to have forgotten that there was a job to be done.
Probably what these players need to do now is to spend some time playing in Ranji trophy matches. Over the last few years the importance of the tournament has diminished somewhat with the relentless amount of international games. But what needs to be remembered is that it still can play a vital role in moulding a player's career. Ask Ajit Agarkar.
After he was dropped from the Indian team, Agarkar took eight wickets in the Ranji Trophy game against Delhi and forced his way back. The results were there to be seen; at Jodhpur, Agarkar bowled with a great deal of confidence, and importantly he picked up crucial wickets to take the Man of the Match award.
Another man who covered himself in glory was Murali Kartik. A left-arm spinner in Indian cricket these days is a forgotten breed. I remember the days when I had the legendary Bishen Singh Bedi as my fellowspinner. >From my experience with Bedi, I am sure that Harbhajan Singh would be a far better bowler, if he were bowling in tandem with someone who can turn the ball the other way.
It is in this context that the success of Kartik was particularly heartening, The young left-arm spinner has worked hard over the last few years in Indian domestic cricket and has been one of the main stars behind Railways' success in Ranji Trophy in recent times. I am glad to see him succeed at the highest level of the game, and the craft he showed in the Jodhpur one-dayer should make any spin bowler proud.
I was also delighted to see Dravid leading the side so well. His captaincy was excellent - his bowling changes, in particular, always spot on. Dravid's success only underlines the key role he has played as a deputy to Sourav Ganguly in India's recent successful campaigns.
Moving on to the final one-day international, I think India are the favourites to win it and take the one-day series. Having said that, they should not take their opposition lightly, for the West Indies with their rejuvenated batting line up could seize even the slightest of opportunities.