Sourav Ganguly was the proudest Indian on Tuesday at Toronto. Leading his country for the first time abroad, he clinched a three-match Series against the West Indies in the DMC Toronto Cricket Festival. India won the Series at 2-1 winning the first and third. This 88-run victory in the third encounter on Tuesday could be rated as the most memorable triumph of them all as it brought the first Cup this season. Moreover this was without the services of Sachin Tendulkar Ajay Jadeja, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble.
It would be uncharitable to pick the best soldier of this team magnificently led by Ganguly. Each player gave his best to the skipper who was ready to experiment and was dare enough to take risks. And so he achieved the desired result. The West Indies, chasing a victory target of 226 in 50 overs lost Sherwin Campbell of the very first ball bowled by Debashish Mohanty. That turned out to be most auspicious start, so to say. For, soon, Mohanty took one more wicket while Venkatesh Prasad got two and Nikhil Chopra three.
Thus the West Indies were reeling at a pathetic 52 for seven 17.3 overs. Ricardo Powell the 20-year-old explosive stroke-maker was the lone man who waged a courageous battle. From 52 for 7 he took the score to 136 before falling to a superb diving catch by Robin Singh at mid wicket off Chopra. Off these 84 runs Powell hit 76 off 73 balls with seven sixes and three fours. It was a sensational batting exhibition by Powell. His hectic hitting even suggested that he might win this match for his side on his own.
He had done that last week in Singapore against India with a glorious 124 off 93 balls. Anyway Tuesday was Ganguly and his men's day. Chopra returned career best figures of 6.2-2-21-5. Rahul Dravid snapped up four catches in the slips and earned the "man of the match" award.. Earlier, Rahul Dravid pulled India from the depths of despair to respectability. Brian Lara chose to field and his pacemen Courtney Walsh and Mervyn Dillon treated the crowd to some fine exhibition of fast bowling on a pitch that offered considerable bounce.
Walsh got rid of MSK Prasad in the fifth over and Dillon forced S.Ramesh into error in t he 10th over. Prasad was consumed by wicket keeper Ridley Jacobs while Sherwin Campbell brilliantly caught Ramesh in the slips. Skipper Ganguly was back as a opener today and played with admirable degree of responsibility. His partner Jacob Martin appeared a bit uncomfortable against some hostile bowling. Yet the newcomer was gritty enough to defend his wicket.
In fact it was Ganguly who fell first with the score at 61 (19.2 overs). Dillon bowled a beauty that took the inner edge and destroyed the stumps. Ganguly made 34 off 63 balls. Then came the brightest moment for India. No team had reached the 200-mark in this Series thus far. Today too it looked as though India just could not go anywhere near that mark. Such was the control the West Indian bowlers enjoyed. Dravid arrived and changed the complexion of the game.
His technical brilliance subdued the attack and even the hitherto tentative Martin grew in confidence. The two added 59 runs before Martin edged Walsh into the gloves of Jacobs. Martin made 33 off 72 balls. It was a valuable contribution considering the dicey situation under which the newcomer had played. Vinod Kambli, a left-hander who is on a comeback venture, joined Dravid.
Kambli whose international career has been at stake as he did not do anything significant in Sri Lanka and Singapore earlier, did not impress much today. He was really scrappy in his approach. But then he managed to stay there with Dravid and even came up with some authoritative stroke-play towards the end of a fruitful 87-run fifth wicket stand.