It really takes guts to declare against any opponent, when you don’t have your ace bowler in your side and the other reliable option just pulled out due to injury on the morning of the test, with a lead of 280 and still 83 overs left in day’s play. But then Mahendra Singh Dhoni is known to be a fearless leader who sets new paths and wants his team to achieve even greater heights. He backed his bowlers: Ishant, who seems to be just finding his rhythm back in the longer version, and Praveen who is just two test old, to defend a target that was definitely getable for a line-up that has Sarwan, Bravo, Chandarpaul, and Samuels in the middle order.
Message was very clear this morning for the Indian batsmen, it was to go for quick runs, even Laxman seems to be trying to take a few risks to reach his century in a jiffy. Again, as in the first innings, he was the top scorer and unfortunately missed his ton by a whisker this time too. Sitting in the 3W stands we could see messages go out to the batsman, even when they didn’t call for water, and then came the declaration, perhaps a bit earlier than most in the stadium expected, including DJG Sammy. The WI supporters in the crowd took it as an opportunity for their team to bounce back in the series as they had full faith in their middle order batsmen and the game was on.
The game kept going back-n-forth with India striking few early wickets and then Bravo and Chandarpaul digging in for a big partnership. I have to say that Ian Gould got one of the worst decisions of the century when he gave Shiv LBW and that got the crowd gunning for Mr. Gould’s head. Just when Baugh replied with a nice counter-attack and the game seemed to be poised at an interesting juncture with WI needing 100 in 19 overs while India needing 5 wickets, first the rain-gods played spoil sport with 10-min drizzle and later the entire officiating staff just killed what could have been an exciting test finishes of recent times. MS Dhoni stuck his neck out with a very sporty declaration (I mean come on he could have gone for safety first, batted 10 more overs and killed the rest of the day into a dull-draw) in the morning, only for all the true test cricket audience to see the officials making a mockery of it in the end.
There were mixed feelings in the crowd. Some die-hard India fans who are residents of the island claimed that this is the usual WICB delay tactics to save their team from defeat, some even went back to 1971 series, where after twin tons from Sunny, how the ground staff had used similar tactics when the home team was 8-down. The Home team supporters still believed that Baugh could have pulled it off and at least saved the test with an outside chance of going all the way to win with Ravi’s support. The match would always be remembered for “what-ifs”, however, in my opinion, the way I saw the ground staff and the two refs come-back so quickly after that 10-min drizzle and get the game started in 30 min, I wondered they could have done it in similar manners on Days 2 and 3 to give us at least 20-30 more overs and there could have been a result.
I’ll remember this test experience in many ways. The trip was memorable for I got a chance to meet with players, get their autographs and snaps. The test-match itself was rejuvenating cricket experience. The crowd was true cricket loving, enjoying their alcohol but never ever mis-behaved. The people on the island were always courteous and willing to help all the time. My two pals and hotel-mates: Sandeep and Abhay were a great company to be with, both on and off the field. Abhay knew the island in-n-out as this was not his first trip and was truly our guide. We are all people with family, work, and jobs thus can’t follow the team like Barmy Army, however, if we get the opportunity to watch test cricket again, we definitely grab it with both hands. Thank you team India, thank you Cricket!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav