Five years ago, when the West Indies snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against India at Kensington Oval, Mervyn Dillon didn't bowl a single ball on the final day.

"Brian Lara was the captain and he obviously had a plan," Dillon said.

India had been given only 120 to win the match and Lara relied exclusively on Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop and Franklyn Rose to conjure up some magic that sent India rolling over for 81.

"He [Lara] said to me the night before, I did my part in the match already when I scored 21 valuable runs," Dillon explained.

"Things went [according] to plan and I didn't have to bowl. I didn't mind. We went on to win the match and the series."

At the time, Dillon 22 years old, raw, inexperienced and playing only his second Test match.

In the past 12 months, however, he has emerged as the West Indies' pace spearhead and it was perhaps most fitting that he was the one who played the most significant role by a bowler in the West Indies' victory over India in the third Test of the current Cable & Wireless series.

Dillon took the first and last wickets of the match in which he bowled splendidly and caught brilliantly, his eight wickets and two catches earning him the Man-Of-The-Match award.

In was, in his words, "definitely the best" of his 24 Tests.

It was a match in which he enjoyed the rare distinction of capturing a wicket with the first ball of the game.

It was also a match in which he removed top India batsman Sachin Tendulkar.

Sort of player

"Everybody knows the sort of player he is. He is the No. 1 batsman in the world right now. To get his wicket was definitely a high moment in the match."

Dillon claimed four wickets in both innings, but is still to add to his solitary five-wicket haul which was achieved in 1997 against Pakistan in his third Test.

"It's not worrying. Once I keep bowling the way I've been doing, it's going to come," he said.

Dillon has also moved to within ten scalps of 100 Test wickets and he has the chance to complete the landmark in the remaining two matches against India.

"I am not in a hurry to get to a hundred. I am in a hurry to go 2-1 up in the series," he said.

While almost everyone acknowledges Dillon as the leading West Indies pacer at the moment, he does not see himself in that role.

"I don't see myself as the No. 1 fast bowler," he said. "I see myself as just one of four bowlers out there in the middle. My goal is simply to help West Indies start winning matches more often."

Dillon has often been criticised for his inconsistency and he had been dropped four times by the time he had played seven Tests.

But the fact that he has been able to command a settled place in the team in the last 12 months has helped a lot.

"I've been playing for a while, and that's what you want - to be in the team and not having to worry too much about whether you are going to be in this match and out the next match," he said.

"It's really comforting. It has helped in my improvement towards Test cricket."

One of the things that also assisted him is the guidance provided by two West Indies fast bowlers from the glorious days of the 70s and 80s.

Andy Roberts, he said, had been very helpful during recent West Indies pre-series camps, while Michael Holding, a now television commentator, has been giving him advice almost on a daily basis.

Dillon might never be another Roberts or Holding, but for now he's the No. 1 West Indies fast bowler, whether he wants to acknowledge or not.