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Indians outclassed in all departments at Vijayawada
 Vivian Richards - 26 November 2002

Exide Cup The TVS Cup will be one trophy that Carl Hooper and his team have every reason to be proud of. Teams coming to India have always struggled to win here. Add to that the fact that the current Indian team is a superb one-day outfit, with a spectacular win in the NatWest Trophy final as well as a superb performance in the ICC Champions Trophy under its belt. However, the West Indies were unfazed, and when they came to Vijayawada, they seemed to draw inspiration from their earlier three wins to post a series-winning fourth.

When I wrote my first article before the start of the Test series, I had mentioned that this tour would be a challenge for the young guys in the team and that some of them would perform well enough here to be remembered by Indian fans for a long time. I'm glad to say that all the youngsters in the side have proved me right. What strikes me as encouraging is the way the players took over from each other. I think the trend was started by Chris Gayle, who discovered superb touch early in the series; then there was Ramnaresh Sarwan, Wavell Hinds and last but not least Marlon Samuels. Each of these youngsters put their hand up when it was required, and that is what made the series win possible.

Cricket is a great leveller, and this series may spur India to look beyond the euphoria of Lord's and Colombo to the fact that there are other teams in the fray equally hungry to win. I don't think this defeat will dent their hopes, but it will teach them that their batsmen cannot always overhaul 300-plus totals. A brilliant batting line-up cannot always bail you out - this is the lesson the Indians can take away from this series.

For the West Indies, this victory is well-timed, coming as it does when everyone's focus is slowly shifting to the World Cup. It will change the way in which other teams will view us and fill our players with hope. The series has opened up the vocabulary of so many young players and made them more confident at this level.

Coming back to Vijayawada, many may now wonder whether Rahul Dravid did the right thing by putting the West Indies in. I for one do not blame him, for he was merely following the trend set in the six earlier matches. Moreover, India have chased so well recently and their batting is definitely their strength. I just think the Indians relaxed a little when they got the wickets of Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul early. The former had been a thorn in the flesh of the Indians right through the TVS Cup, and they must have relaxed a little. Full marks to Sarwan and Samuels for taking full advantage of this and recovering well from those early blows.

No praise can be too high for the way Samuels played. I was particularly impressed by the way he took control once Sarwan departed. What we saw was one of the better one-day knocks, replete with exquisitely timed shots. His innings at Kolkata followed by his good showings in the one-dayers show that he can make the adjustment required to play both forms of the game very quickly. He is a class act from whom we can expect a lot in the future.

The West Indies were also extremely fortunate to have Jermaine Lawson in the team. We had not planned to play him, but when Pedro Collins pulled up stiff on the morning of the match, the youngster took up the challenge magnificently. He was an unknown quantity, fresh and slightly quicker. This helped him catch the big boys at the top of the Indian order completely off guard. It was a marvellous effort, especially when you consider that he had landed in India just two days before.

While the series may have gone to us because of our superlative performance in all departments of the game at Vijayawada, I must say that India too played some great competitive cricket through the series. True, India were without Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan, and later Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh. However, they are still an extremely good side, and I refuse to buy the theory that they lost the series because of the absence of the senior pros.

An away win in a one-day series has taken some time coming for the West Indies. It is now time for the guys to savour it enough to want to repeat it.

Other Articles by Vivian Richards:

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