Ind vs WI: It's no longer a mismatch!
If 1st two ties are any indication, it may turn out to be one of the most thrilling ODI series, writes Atul Sondhi.india Updated: May 24, 2006 19:16 IST
Two matches decided in the very last over, the favourites stumbling to victory in the first and then losing their way in the second, and the underdogs finally proving their worth at home when it mattered most.
The script could not have been better with the series tied at one-all after the first two extremely absorbing encounters.
After some poor West Indies' fielding display in the final stages of the first ODI at Kingston, which enabled India to escape to victory, some past greats had begun to suspect West Indies tremendous showing against Zimbabwe as nothing more than just a thrashing of the hapless minnows.
Just a day after the disappointing first match loss, former fast bowler Colin Croft lauded the Indian team as a very settled outfit and felt that the West Indies were perhaps not fully prepared for such class opposition.
The West Indies batting performance in second ODI, after they were put into bat, also did not offer them much hope. But the hosts had other ideas. Strung by criticism, they fought back grittily, and with success.
Like the Caribbean landscape, the series has offered many surprises in limited time, and here are some of them.
India lose the second match!
Under Greg Chappell, the Indians have generally been rusty in the first match of a series or tournament, before finding their way to success in the Second. In the Eight series/tournaments under Chappell, India have lost five out of eight first encounters while winning all of their seven second encounters before they lost to the West Indies.
In eight series/tournaments under Greg Chappell
So it was a major surprise to see an opposition measure up to India in the second match, rather than the other way round. Ironically it happened on the very day when Greg was appointed India's coach one year ago.
West Indies outrun India on the home stretch
Thanks to the likes of Dhoni, Pathan, Raina and Powar. Very few teams have been able to match India's intensity in the final stages of a match. There is no stopping India, especially when they are faced with a modest score. However, this time at Jamaica, it was the West Indies, which turned the tables on the World Number two ODI team.
If we compare the two teams in the second ODI, India's were always ahead of West Indies till the 30th over. While the West Indies were 87 for the loss of four wickets after 30th over, the Indians were 103 for 4 at the same stage. But the slowing down of tempo between the 31st and 40th over may have proved telling in the end as India went on to lose the race by the narrowest of the margins.
Run-Progress of India and West Indies (In second ODI)
Single player domination
In teams full of stars, one player has dominated all the four innings scoring nearly 40 to 50 per cent of the team runs.
If Dravid and Yuvraj have done it for India, the lopsidedness is more pronounced in the case of the West Indies, with 123 runs of the team's total of 251 coming off Gayle's blade on May 18. And in the second ODI, Ramnaresh Sarwan compiled a magical 98 unbeaten runs out of 198.
So if we take both the innings, just two players contributed 221 of the West Indies runs, nearly 49 per cent of the 449!
To complement their scoring, these players have also paced their innings well. Take Sarwan. Even as wickets were falling like nine-pins, he kept his composure and ensured that the run-rate did not suffer. The top order bat matched the other batsmen stroke-by stroke and also successfully rotated the strike.
Sarwan's contribution against others (In second ODI)
Same from Yuvraj. As the wickets were falling regularly, he was little careful with his strike-rate hovering between 60 and 65 for his first fifty runs, but when India looked like losing, he pressed the accelerator harder and at more than run a ball, almost reach the destination.
Finely balanced series
After two hard-fought encounters, the series could not have been more finely balanced. There have been some great bowling performances from both the sides though the batsmen have disappointed a bit. Despite relatively small grounds, scores so far have not been very big as pitches tend to become little slow and ball becomes soft as the innings wears off.
This may explain some of the dismissals where the ball has tended to come late on to the bat. This should help the bowlers if they maintain the correct line, that is around the off-stump. In fact, Indian bowlers got all their wickets yesterday to deliveries in the off-side corridor.
India have their task cut out as the momentum has now swung in the favour of the home side. But with the core of the team India already decided for the World Cup, it will be perfect opportunity for them fine-tune their skills to the challenges they will face one year from now at the biggest stage of them all - the World Cup.