Munaf spells doom for West Indies
It isn't the real thing, not yet at least. Still, given the kind of media attention a tournament like World Cup attracts, even a warm-up game, where not 11 but 13 players play for each side, can be treated like something far more serious than it is. But no matter how important or serious the game was, India did a lot of good to their confidence by knocking over the West Indians with surprising ease and can now approach the first phase of the tournament in a healthy frame of mind.
The Indians woke up on Friday morning to the news - from back home - that Sourav Ganguly was injured and may not play. After frenetic phone calls, the news filtered in that there was nothing wrong with him and that he would play.
The second time around panic buttons were pressed was 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, Indian officials must realise that they need a professional media manager with the team and not just a selector masquerading as manager. 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 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 playing.
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.
An indifferent batting performance from the West Indies, coupled with Munaf making great use of favourable conditions, resulted in wickets falling at regular intervals. The only negative from the match was yet another failure from Virender Sehwag. He got out to another of his extravagant drives and left many of his admirers fuming.
The other two Indians to bat did not succumb to the vagaries of an unpredictable wicket and the match was won rather easily.