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India have ability, they need belief

Any West Indies celebration will be premature, writes Atul Sondhi.What went wrong for India in last two ODIs?

india Updated: May 25, 2006 19:01 IST

With four runs needed for victory and three balls to go, it was anybody's game at St Kitts. But then the unthinkable happened. The Wall eventually cracked. Dravid misfielded to give Sarwan two instead of a single, and more importantly the strike. The rest was mere formality.

Along with a shattered Yuvraj sitting despondently after Bravo terminated a brave innings in the second ODI, a crestfallen Dravid after that misfield in the 3rd ODI will make the most poignant image of the series if India go on to lose to the hosts. West Indies would love to finish the series on Friday itself and Lara did not mince any word in saying so.

But any West Indies celebration will be premature. India can still win the series, if they only take the positives from the matches, and inspiration from their recent history.

West Indies still a two-man team

Chanderpaul may have flourished and ably supported Sarwan as West Indies pursued victory, but considering the way he played, missed and mistimed so many balls in the initial part of his innings, West Indies still look a two-man team with Gayle and Sarwan doing the bulk of the scoring, and with full conviction. In fact, had the Indians been able to crack the fifth-wicket partnership little earlier, probably the series score line would have been reverse.

In any case, Chanderpaul is out of the last two ODIs due to strained left thigh. Wavell Hinds and Sewnarine Chattergoon will replace Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Runako Morton in the Windies squad.

Out of Touch Lara

The biggest disappointment for the West Indies has been the form of their skipper Brian Lara. Scores of 35, 14 and 5 show a progressive decline even as the star of the West Indies looks to be on ascendance. But at some time or the other, the hosts will surely need him to show his class.

For more than 16 months now, Lara has not played a great ODI innings. After a swashbuckling 156 runs in the win against Pakistan at Adelaide Oval in January 2005, Lara has scored just one fifty in his last 17 innings. India will pray that his bad form continues because on his day, the West Indies skipper is capable of winning any match single handedly.

Sehwag-Kaif Factor

Many people were surprised why Kaif was on tour after a disappointing, and seemingly never ending run of low scores in the ODIs.

But his two innings, a match-winning unbeaten 66 in the first encounter and equally enterprising 61 in the third may have given the middle order batsman the much needed confidence. It may have decisively ended a long streak of failures, which is a good omen for India in the coming matches.

Kaif's Worst Streaks (Without a Fifty)

Sept 2002-Mar 2003212533513.32
Nov 2005-Apr 2006141514613.72
Mar 2002-Jul 200271214124.20
Mar 2004-Aug 200478831*14.67
Dec 2004-Apr 200561224924.40

Sehwag too finally paid back the trust of the team management with a brilliant 96, compiled with a strike rate of well over hundred. With the two batsmen finally finding their touch, it will pose an additional problem for the West Indies pace and spin attack. Making inroads should be all the more difficult from now on.

First Published: May 25, 2006 11:43 IST