Georgetown: Keen to get their players some extra practice ahead of the first Test, the Indians arranged a Limited-Overs game on Sunday and then turned it into a farce by deliberately batting slow and robbing the match of any competitiveness.
The Indians scored only 43 runs from their 21 overs without losing any wicket with Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer hardly showing any inclination to get the runs. Guyana Board President's XI, who had made 136 for five batting first, was declared winners by 92 runs. The Indians and Guyana XI had mutually agreed to play a Limited-Overs practice game, foreseeing an early end to their three-day match after the hosts were struggling at 52 for five on the second day needing 131 to avoid an innings defeat. However, the match did not finish that early, consuming more than half the day but the two teams went ahead with the plan as scheduled, playing a 21-overs-a-side game. The Indians wanted to practice for sure.
They were keen to let all the 16 members of the side have some hit in the middle and thus fielded men like Tinu Youhanan, Ashish Nehra, Dinesh Mongia, Ajay Ratra and Wasim Jaffer who were not part of the eleven which played the three-day game. But the script did not go as planned. The Indian bowlers were hit all over the park by the surprisingly positive home batsmen who were only able to manage scores of 118 and 168 in the three-day match. Yohannan and Nehra received a battering as did Sanjay Bangar. The hosts could thus set a target in excess of six per over for the visitors. Jaffer and Dravid went out to open and stayed till the end without making any effort to move the scoreboard.
A goodly Sunday crowd, in anticipation of some slam-bang cricket, was hugely disappointed. Pravin Dave, CEO, Demerara Bank was one of them. "I think the Indians have been greatly disrespectful to the spectators," said Dave. But Indian coach John Wright wasn't amused. "The crowd could have gone home. They came to watch the three-day game and it was over by afternoon," Wright said defending his team's strategy. "We were keen to have some practice and I think the boys got it," he said. "We looked at it as a practice game in a Test-match situation and it was much better than having nets and I would not fault the batsmen." It was an assessment nobody in the ground seemed to agree with.
Possibly not even captain Saurav Ganguly who left the ground much before the Indian innings was through. Said Chetram Singh, president of the Guyana Cricket Association, "We accommodated the Indians at all turns. It was they who said they wanted the game. It was they who said if Guyana team could take the first strike. After that what they did while batting was very disappointing. It was in a very, very poor taste." In the end, there was more than one red face in the Indian dressing room though Wright remained stoutly defiant.