The game of glorious uncertainty
Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
June 2, 2002
Articles on West Indies Cricket
To the knowledgeables the result was not surprising, yet West Indies' 2-1 home cricket Test series triumph over India would be remembered for one important missing ingredient.
Having not lost a series at home in recent history to any team except the two highest ranked nations of Australia and South Africa, West Indies were expected to overcome India, given their excellent home record.
In facing the team with the worst `road' record among the established countries, West Indies were favoured to produce the goods and they delivered in fine style. It gave the West Indies Cricket Board immense relief at finally enjoying success after the team's heavy back to back defeats overseas, but their dream of staging a mouth watering exhibition between the world's two premier batsmen Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar, turned out to be a mere illusion.
If nothing else, India's presence in the region have always led to financial windfalls for the WICB. And with the arrival of the two batsmen at the pinnacle of contemporary batting excellence, the best advertisement to pull crowds was in place.
The crowds did show up, but Lara and Tendulkar could not justify the hype and produce the batting explosions everyone hungered for.
It resulted in a massive anticlimax played out to the regional followers and the many more outside the West Indies.
They could not have wanted easier batting pitches to put on their show but Lara ended series with 202 runs, batting seven times and Tendulkar 331 from eight innings, failures when compared to the high standards they are accustomed to setting. The slow backbreaking tracks for bowlers at the majority of the grounds have given many a trier nightmares after just one experience.
Given that Lara was not 100 percent fit and did not play for three months before the April 11 first Test, but the "Prince of Port of Spain" has performed many miracles with the bat in the past.
His two world records for Test and first class competition of 375 and 501 not out respectively within a mere three-month period, could rank with any of the sports great accomplishments.
When he almost batted West Indies singlehandedly to victory over world champions Australia three years ago, he again proved capable of making magic with a bat.
The brilliant Trinidadian has never ceased to excite fans and intimidate bowlers whenever he takes to the batting crease and this time around it was no different, despite the setbacks.
His astounding 668-runs tally against Sri Lanka in his last series from only three Tests, facing the world's most prolific bowler Muttiah Muralitharan in the latter's backyard, raised expectations sky high.
And having made it clear he was benefitting from sound batting advice from yesteryear's batting great Sir Garry Sobers, Lara set the tone for more magical displays.
Instead he was forced to endure the series in the shadow of Shiv Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper who soaked up all the glory after producing one of the best partnerships ever recorded by a regional side.
Tendulkar's display was even more perplexing. Although he recently had surgery for an instep injury, the master proved his return to form by topping his team's batting with averages of over 64 and 76 in India's last two series against South Africa and England.
Yet he did represent the tag as one of India's greatest batsman with three superb innings, especially the glorious 86 at Sabina Park, with his team's back to the wall.
But his visit to the Caribbean will more be remembered for the three noughts he recorded, falling to bowlers unknown to the rest of the world and in many parts of the region.
As they prepare for the one-day series, Lara and Tendulkar will be anxiously analysing their failures which in large measure could be attributed to the pressure they faced.
Tendulkar was expected to lead India to their first `road' series victory in 16 years, given the supposed weakness of the hosts.
Lara came off one of his best series ever against Sri Lanka and everyone was sure he would made the Indian attack child's play.
But the weight of expectation was too great for the world's numbers one and two, who were both beaten by the mind game.
It proves that cricket will forever remain the game of glorious uncertainty.