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Munaf spells doom for West Indies

cricket Updated: Mar 11, 2007 12:42 IST
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It isn't the real thing --- at least not yet. Still, given the kind of media attention a tournament like the World Cup attracts, even a warm-up game, in which not 11 but 13 players play for each side, can be treated as something far more serious than it is, especially if the Indian bowlers defy predictions and run through the West Indian side even before the halfway stage.

The Indians woke up on Friday morning to the news (from back home) that Sourav Ganguly was injured and may not play against the West Indies. After frenetic phone calls, the news filtered in that there was nothing wrong with Ganguly and he would play.

The second time around, panic buttons were pressed when Rahul Dravid announced after the toss that Sachin Tendulkar would not play due to a minor injury. More tension and more worried faces in the media box as efforts were launched to find out what was wrong. We were told it was nothing worrisome, just a sore shoulder.

As the tournament gets going, the Indian officials must realise that they need a professional media manager with the team, not just a selector masquerading as manger. Otherwise, whatever emanates from here from journalists --- particularly sensation-seeking TV reporters --- will create unnecessary problems. And the blame, in the end, will rest with the Indian board.

Surprisingly, the match itself --- billed by even some local fans as 'the match' of the warm-up phase --- did not attract much of a crowd. No overflowing stadium at Trelawny, no huge turnout to make the players feel that this could be the real thing, after all.

For the Indians, playing with 13 players meant they could afford to juggle their bowlers around again. Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar were back, Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan were retained and both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were part of the fielding pack. But it was Munaf who best exploited the helpful conditions.

The signs were very encouraging right from the start, with the wicket behaving very strangely. It had bounce, but no pace. In fact, the ball started stopping before making its way to the batsmen.

Zaheer and Agarkar began well and later, Pathan's curious spell --- the ball would hardly reach the bat --- got rid of Brian Lara, who hit some mind-boggling shots before his fall. That Pathan delivery reached Lara much after he had completed his shot, giving the bowler a return catch.

Wickets continued to fall, the bowlers continued to make inroads. If the Indian batsmen don't become victims of a wicket on which playing shots seems extremely injurious to health, they would have done a lot of good to their confidence before entering the first phase of the main tournament.