Watching India play West Indies in the Caribbean was something I have wanted to do for a while.
The short ball. India came into the game with a reputation for discomfort against chin music. And they left with it intact on what was a fairly hard deck, which the West Indian bowlers exploited to the fullest. Right from Gautam Gambhir, the Indian batsmen ducked and weaved and flayed wantonly, only to edge and miss. Only Yuvraj Singh seemed to play with any measure of comfort against the quicks. But as luck would have it, he fell to the spinner Sulieman Benn, lobbing the ball to mid-on for a very soft dismissal. So, for ruthlessly exploiting the Indian team's weakness, the short ball was the performer of the day.
The Indian XI. Ravindra Jadeja definitely shouldn't have played. After Jadeja endured a confidence-shattering, match-losing walloping by the Australians a few days ago at the same ground, MS Dhoni ought to have dropped him. He misfielded, dropped a crucial catch, and went for 27 in two overs.
After several failed attempts to make a Mexican wave go all around the ground, finally a well-coordinated effort hit the Oval midway through the day. The secret: practice and a loud countdown from 10.
Dhoni's walk-down and massive pick-up hit for six into the imposing 3Ws stand in the 14th over against Dwayne Bravo. With India staring down the barrel of defeat and two fielders along the rope, the carefree and confident shot promised a fight.
Jerome Taylor was at long-on near the open-ground seating area after bowling a few good, tight overs up front. Yet, a West Indian supporter called to him and kept repeating "Focus, Jerome, focus", ostensibly as an encouragement, but it went on and on, until Taylor walked away at the end of the over. This fan got an earful from the people nearby.
There's never a dull moment in the stands in the Caribbean, especially when the home team is playing. Even when the action on the field slowed down, the calypso beat and swinging and dancing continued. Every six off Chris Gayle's bat was met with delirious cheering. While the Indian team had sizeable support, in the Hewitt and Innis stand - where I mostly sat - Indians were outnumbered 50 to 1, and every time India tried to steal the momentum, the chant would begin in our stands, "West-Ind-ease! west-ind-ease!", and the home team would wrest the initiative back. When Kemar Roach was having some trouble finishing the 19th over, conceding no fewer than four wides and a no-ball, the exasperated crowd soon began encouraging, "Let's go Roachie, let's go!" and he immediately complied.
A group of Indians were dressed in traditional Indian wear of dhoti, kurta, turban, all in the tricolour. A couple of them even had vermilion on their foreheads. Needless to say, they were the first to be spotted by the camera crew.
A band played away by the party stand, while around the stadium the drums and cymbals and bugles and horns all combined into a distinctly Caribbean experience.
Coming on Mother's day this one was especially appropriate: "I miss you mom".
ODIs are going the way of the dodo and soon we'll all be singing an ode to them. I thought Twenty20 was quite frivolous when it started a few years ago, but now I think ODIs are going to get squeezed out of the international calendar, between the purists supporting Test cricket and the progressive interests that want more Twenty20s. I had better start liking Twenty20s more.
9. While the Indian team disappointed, it was still a fantastic experience watching them play West Indies in front of a proud and passionate home crowd in a well-matched game of cricket.
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