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Dhoni's sixers unsettle Lara

After the Jaffer-Dravid duo, it was the keeper's turn to trouble the WI bowlers in Antigua. Should Lara be penalised?

india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 17:47 IST

A 203-run third-wicket stand between Wasim Jaffer (212) and skipper Rahul Dravid (62), followed by a whirlwind 69 by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, gave India a chance to force victory against West Indies even as controversy erupted in the first Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

India declared their second innings at 521 for 6, setting West Indies to score 392 to win in a minimum of 95 overs. At stumps, West Indies were 13 for no loss, after five overs.

After being frustrated for over four hours by the Jaffer-Dravid combine, the West Indian bowlers then felt the full brunt of hurricane Dhoni. Sixes rained from his bat as he raced to 69 from 50 balls, adding 102 with Mohd Kaif (46 not out). And it was one of his big hits that led to the controversy.

Dhoni unleashed himself on left-arm wrist spinner Dave Mohammed. Six times he clubbed him over the ropes, three of them consecutively in Mohammed's 30th over.

A fourth was attempted; Darren Ganga caught it on the midwicket boundary. But was it a fair catch? Had his feet touched the boundary rope as he held the ball?

Ganga said he'd made it. The umpires wanted a confirmation and went to the third umpire. TV replays were inconclusive and as the players stood in the middle waiting for a decision, things began to get unpleasant. Clearly, Lara wanted the Indians to accept the word of his fielder. Dhoni and Kaif were doubtful.

As words were exchanged, the friendly spirit which seemed to prevail between the teams - witnessed when Jaffer got his 200 and later when he got out when more than one West Indian player congratulated him - evaporated.

Lara suddenly exploded, snatching the ball from umpire Asad Rauf and getting ready to resume play.

And it did appear that Dhoni would continue batting when frantic signals from the Indian dressing room indicated that Dravid had declared the innings closed.

Dhoni, when asked about it, said, "Lara came to us and said, 'I'm taking charge of my players.' Implying that Lara backed Ganga's claim that the catch was completed."

Added Dhoni, "I accepted that decision."

What remains a mystery if it was that simple, why did it take so long to resolve in the middle?

Both teams appeared embarrassed by the episode for in post-match talks with newsmen, representatives from both sides tried to downplay it.

In fact, after meeting both captains and the umpires, match referee Jeff Crowe said that, "At the end of the meeting, everybody left feeling pleased." There was no mention of fines or any disciplinary action.

All the controversy did was to take the sheen away from a truly solid performance by the Indian batsmen.

Sure the pitch had eased up and West Indies were without their strike bowler Edwards, but such was the authority of Jaffer and Dravid at the wicket that Lara had long run out of ideas and options before Dhoni applied the sledgehammer.

There was more to Jaffer's innings than numbers (212, 399 balls, 1 six, 24 fours). It was delightful to watch, especially his driving. He was particularly severe on Dwayne Bravo as he became the first Indian to get a double century in the Caribbean since Navjot Singh Sidhu in Port of Spain in 1997.

Dravid gritted it out again, facing 177 balls for his 62, and hit just two fours, and the way he got out, sweeping and top-edging Mohammed to long leg with India 240 ahead, was perhaps an indication that he felt his side was safe and could now think about forcing a win.

Yuvraj (39) and Kaif then put on 44, working towards setting West Indies a 350-plus target. Dhoni's savage assault enabled India to have a five-over shot at the West Indian openers before stumps. It was almost a successful one for Ganga survived a close lbw shout from Kumble in the last over of the day.