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Crowd trouble mars India's win at Rajkot

Five hundred runs scored in 77.1 overs, one explosive hundred, four other scores over 70, as many as 56 boundaries and seven sixes struck. What more could the Rajkot crowds want from the third one-dayer? You better travel to the venue yourself and put that question to the idiots who rained bottles down on West Indian fieldsmen to cause a stoppage in play. Chasing 301, India were in a strong position at 200/1 after 27.1 overs when the players were forced off the field. When it became impossible to resume play, India were named winners by 81 runs, by the Duckworth-Lewis method.

This series has been characterised by boorish behaviour from crowds, mediocre bowling from both sides and some typically aggressive batting that has seen West Indies take a 2-0 lead. On the day, India responded with style and substance. Chasing a mammoth 301 for an unlikely win, India's openers showed why they are among the most dangerous in international cricket.

On the back of two failures, Virender Sehwag launched a fiery assault that will be etched in the West Indian psyche for some time to come. After having torched New Zealand, slamming a 69-ball century against them in August 2001, and torn apart England, reaching three figures in 77 balls in a Champions Trophy match recently, Sehwag decided to let the men from the Caribbean feel the fury of a one-day ton from his blazing willow. His 75-ball hundred in the third one-dayer at Rajkot made him just the second batsman after Sanath Jayasuriya to score three ODI tons in less than 80 balls. But that in itself is not a profound statistic.

What is of profound relevance is the manner in which India set about chasing a conventionally huge target, making it look simple. Where Sehwag was brutal, Ganguly was elegant. Where the West Indian bowlers were beside themselves with agony, the Indian openers rejoiced in the joy and simplicity of clean hitting.

The carnage began early, with Ganguly hitting the seventh ball of the innings to the fence. The captain had opened the sluice gates and the Sehwag flood ensued. Cutting and driving through the offside, along the ground and in the air, Sehwag could not put a foot wrong, beating the field at will. When the bowlers, forced to adjust their line, drifted towards the pads, the response was less brutal, if no less effective. Sehwag moved across his stumps and wrists of steel sent the ball scurrying to the fence.

Whilst the bowlers were being battered at one end, Ganguly seemed to tickle them into submission at his end. Moving towards the line and pitch of the ball with an economy of effort that signaled his form, the Indian skipper eased the ball through the gaps and pinged the advertising hoardings on the off side.

When the 15-over mark came around, India were sitting pretty at 120 for no loss and the fielding restrictions were lifted. In the absence of Carl Hooper, missing the game with a knee injury, skipper Ridley Jacobs took this as a golden chance to stem the run flow. Cameron Cuffy bowling a decent line and length, suggested that there might be some hope for Jacobs. The very hint of such a thought seemed to annoy the well-set Indian openers.

Ganguly used his feet to come down the wicket, Sehwag gave himself a bit of room, and all of a sudden no length was restrictive enough, no line tight enough. Against the run of play, well after the record first wicket stand against West Indies was erased, Ganguly (72, 83 balls, 9 fours) fell. Trying to clear mid off, while coming down the wicket and giving himself a bit of room, Ganguly could only watch as a diving Chanderpaul snapped up a sharp catch.

VVS Laxman, who made 99 in the last match, was at the crease, and had not yet got off the mark, when play was stopped by the mindlessness of a certain section of spectators. A bewildered Sehwag, batting on a cracking 114 (82 balls, 17 fours 2 sixes) walked off the field, jousting light-heartedly with Marlon Samuels as policemen took control of the stands.

Earlier in the day, West Indies provided their own brand of entertainment, and let no one forget that, by reaching 300/5 from 50 overs. Chris Gayle began the charge for the visitors, clattering the ball through the offside with gay abandon. His 68-ball 72 provided the launching platform from which Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul could build a sizable total. Posting a 149-run fourth wicket partnership, Chanderpaul (74) and Sarwan (87) took West Indies to striking distance of a mammoth score before they both fell in the end overs. Ricardo Powell, then, applied the finishing touches with 19 from 18 balls, that included one tremendous six that came off the hapless Ajit Agarkar in the final over.

While it is a touch unfair to single out Agarkar for being scored heavily against, he did make a strong case for such treatment, giving away 63 runs from six overs. What then would you say to Merv Dillon (6 overs 40 runs), Cameron Cuffy (6 overs 41 runs), Chris Gayle (18 from one thunderous over) and Mahendra Nagamootoo (5 overs 43 runs)? Nothing more than, hard luck chaps, that's one-day cricket sometimes.

But what do you say when a match is abandoned because of boorish behaviour? Does the match referee award the game to the touring side to send out a loud, clear signal? Do police clear stands out and play `behind closed doors'? Or do we take games away from troublesome venues?

One thing is clear, the International Cricket Council cannot remain silent on this issue anymore.