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What was MSD thinking?

cricket Updated: Oct 07, 2011 14:03 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
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In the end, there was disbelief and shock as the world's No. 1 Test team decided not to attempt a run-a-ball chase and called it a draw in the third Test at the Windsor Park on Sunday.

The sun shone brightly as a noisy Sunday crowd, backing a fighting West Indies, braced for a shootout to the tape. The drinks trolley had rolled in to signal the final hour of the Test when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman walked away. India needed 86 from 90 deliveries with seven wickets in hand.

It took a while before it dawned that India, 1-0 up in the series, had decided not to attempt the final chase.

The euphoria of MS Dhoni leading a depleted team to India's second series win in a row in the West Indies vanished as debate raged on why India were timid.

Shiv digs deep
The visitors had been made to toil in the searing heat by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who defied the tired bowlers for well over eight hours after he was dropped on 25. Set a target of 180 in 47 overs, an asking rate of under four runs at the start on a sluggish pitch, India were not in a bad position.

But it was astounding to see no attempt being made to get closer to the target when it would have been brilliant to make a statement, or at least send the right message. The West Indies bowlers were also wilting in the heat, and spearhead Fidel Edwards looked less than fully fit. But once Suresh Raina, promoted up the order, fell, the shutters were pulled down.

Coach Duncan Fletcher, never comfortable facing the media, was irritated as the same question was put to him in different ways.

Fletcher angry
"We did try to have a go but realised it was a difficult wicket to score runs. It took a situation where players had to get in for three or four overs. The wicket wasn't difficult (to survive), but very hard to score runs. We had seen that right through the match.

Fletcher was incensed when asked whether the No. 1 Test team should have made a statement. "You don't think we made a statement here? I think we did. We came here with four top players missing --- Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar and Zaheer --- and we have won 1-0; I think that's quite a statement. I just think, when you look back at the pessimism with which people reacted when this side was selected, winning the series is great achievement."

In the end, the message sent out was definitely disappointing.

Inquisition left Fletcher angry. "I have been repeating myself the whole time. I have told you it was difficult to score runs. If a man on 40 (Murali Vijay made 45) is struggling to score at three runs an over, how can you expect someone to go in there and knock five or six runs an over?

"Once Raina was sent in, he found it very difficult. He had gone there as the left-hander to take on the leg-spin bowler. But it was turning straightaway; they block off one side and it's always difficult to chase four runs an over in a Test match because you can do what you like with the field; there are no fielding limitations, and the most important thing was the wicket was very slow."

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