There is an adage “every run counts” and the third and final Test vesus West Indies epitomised the very essence of that saying. In the 14th over, Rahul Dravid paddle-sweeps Bishoo, and Sammy from his position at first slip ran like a leopard as though his life depended on saving the ball from going to the boundary. He managed to save a run. A run in the final context of the match is all that separated India from taking victory and the series 3-0. It wasn’t to be.
India charging for a victory was quite a welcome change after decades of seeing them play safe.West Indies can finally salvage some pride in what seemed like a dead test till Friday. It was a nail-biting finish and Mumbai continues to amaze with the way matches have turned out, most recent being the World Cup victory.
Continuing their good form with the bat, West Indies (remember the second innings of the Kolkata Test match?) notched up a total in excess of 500. In return, Indians played well except for a slight pause when Tendulkar and Dhoni got out in quick succession. Virat Kohli got in and found an able partner in Ashwin and both had the task of avoiding the follow-on. The batting was easy and Kohli missed an excellent opportunity to add a century to his name after he made a well compiled maiden half century. In his first series, Ashwin has already seen a lot of things happening in his life. In the span of three weeks, he was given the Test cap, the man of the match award on debut, wedding with his childhood love, honeymoon in Kolkata and now here in Mumbai with the team reminiscing April 2, the day India won the World Cup.
Now he had the responsibility of rallying the tail and get India closer to the Windies target. He did his best and in the process ended up scoring a hundred, to add to his five-wicket haul in the first innings. He became only the third Indian to achieve this feat after Vinoo Mankad (versus Englandat Lords in 1952) and Polly Umrigar (versus West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962) and overall it has happened only 26 times before Ashwin entered the list.
With a lead of 108 runs, West Indies seemed like the only team that could lose unless they scored runs quickly and had enough overs left to dismiss India. Indian spinners in Ojha and Ashwin (again!) had other ideas and dismissed the Caribbean side for 134. With over 60 overs to go and 243 to chase, it seemed a great opportunity to win the series 3-0. Sehwag set the tempo for the chase before he was dismissed for a freak shot, not before he had scored a brisk 60. The scene was set again for Tendulkar and before the word of what a perfect setting spread around, he was dismissed in the 90s. Once again; 27th time in his career.
The match took an interesting turn when Marlon Samuels struck with the wicket of Dravid’s and with one session left, India needed 95 runs. V.V.S. Laxman, the fourth innings master, partnered Kohli to propel India back into the hunt. For once, Laxman was unable to stay till the end and it was to left to Kohli and Dhoni. Once Dhoni was removed by Rampaul, Windies got a sniff of victory. With 54 runs to get, time was running out for India. It was time for the stars of the first innings to get India through. Four wickets in hand and 17 runs to get, it looked like an easy clincher. But going for a late cut, Kohli hit it straight to Sammy and with only tailenders left in pavillion, it looked like a daunting task. Clearly, no one was in a mood for a repeat of Chennai when the last few wickets fell like a pack of cards.
It was good to see Ishant Sharma being positive and going for the runs. By the time he was dismissed, India was left 4 runs short of victory. Varun Aaron managed to take a single and with one over to go any of the results was possible. Windies required 2 wickets, India 3 runs and if luck were to hit the pitch at Wankhede, a distinct tie was also a possibility. Fidel Edwards bowled 3 dots to Aaron, and on the fourth ball, courtesy a misfiled, India managed to take a run. With 2 balls to go, Ashwin defended a fast in-swinger thereby negating the victory to West Indies. One ball, 2 runs to win, Ashwin hits it straight to long-on. Not sure what happened, Ashwin ran himself out as he was slow in getting back for the second.
India didn’t win, Windies didn’t win. And there was no tie. It was a draw!
The scoreboard will never say what a thriller this match turned out to be. This was only the second time the result was a draw, when the scores were level. The previous two teams involved were England and Zimbabwe that took place back in the 1990′s.
M.S. Dhoni returns to his usual ways of collecting a series win trophy and also a well-needed rest for the ODI series. Ashwin collected his second MoM for the series and unsurprisingly the Man of the Series award as well. Rahul Dravid had another outstanding Test match, and in the first innings went past 13,000-run mark to be the only second batsman in the history of Test cricket.
To talk about another batsman who impressed with his stroke play was Darren Bravo. Reminiscent of the illustrious Brian Lara, Bravo so far has managed to be on terms with the numbers that of Lara’s. In his short career spanning 12 Tests, the left-hander from Trinidad seems to be the next exciting prospect in international cricket. His 166 in the first innings was a treat and with Chanderpaul not in side for this Test, he played a major role in them amassing 590. Ravi Rampaul, who took the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the first innings, was a star in the second innings alongside Fidel Edwards.
While the match was dead rubber for most parts, it did have its share of anxiety surrounding an important landmark.
On the night of Thursday (the third day), I went to bed few minutes past two in the morning. Before dozing off, I realised I had to wake up early to witness something incredible waiting to happen. When I woke up, I was a good two hours late and first thing I did was to check the score. Sachin missed it again, I remarked. In a way, I felt bad not because he didn’t score that elusive 100 but for the lament which was to erupt from all corners. Public will be in a dilemma between waiting for the 100 and to forget what had happened.
“Waiting is painful, forgetting is painful, but not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering.” Paulo Coelho summed it up and I found it apt when I saw a lot being written about his ‘missed opportunity’ in a span of few minutes after his dismissal; varying emotions from the pacifiers telling his hundred will come and one has to wait while the other party seemed to talk more on why he had to play that shot and he missed an opportunity to score in front of his home crowd.
I began to wonder what the master blaster must have been going through. For, having followed his career right since childhood, I can say he would have been more disappointed on playing that shot and getting out than missing the hundred. Surely he would have loved to have scored that century, but there is always a next chance. Moreover, as long he is contributing well (scoring 90s) with the bat and India benefiting from this, does it matter if he keeps missing the hundred?
For all the enthusiastic fans, the wait will be longer and it won’t be in India; it will be some miles Down Under in Australia. With Sachin being rested for the ODIs, the world will have to wait for the turn of the New Year before the humdrum surrounding this century begins all over again. He became a world sensation when he scored two hundreds in Australia back in the 1991-92 series. Isn’t it going to be fitting if he achieves the feat in a place where Sir Don played most of his cricket? Time will tell and the time isn’t far off.
All I can say when he gets there (slightly modifying the Mark Twain quote) “I’m glad he did it, partly because it was worth it, but mostly because he shall never have to do it again”.