Superstar flops get chance to sparkle in crunch Test

Published: Friday, May 17, 2002, 20:30 [IST]
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Kingston (Jamaica): Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar both have a point to prove in the crucial fifth and final Test between India and the West Indies, which gets underway on Saturday. With the series tied at 1-1, the two superstar batsmen have the perfect opportunity to wipe out the memory of what has, so far, been a bitterly disappointing series for both of them. Tendulkar has made just 204 in six Test innings, including three zeroes, while Lara has managed only 158 from five. But West Indies skipper Carl Hooper believes it is only a matter of time before one of them reproduces the fireworks they are famous for. "We haven't seen the best of Brian or, for that matter, Tendulkar," Hooper said. "I'm confident Brian would come good in the fifth Test. He's a big-match player. If Brian and Sachin fire, it's going to be a fitting finale to a well-contested series." Hooper and his Indian counterpart Saurav Ganguly also have a lot riding on the outcome of the match at Sabina Park. The West Indies is yet to win an important Test series under Hooper and a Ganguly- led India is still without an away series victory. Hooper, 35, returned from retirement last year to lead the West Indies against South Africa at home, but could not stop his team from suffering a 1-2 defeat. Then came a 0-3 whitewash in Sri Lanka and a 0-2 rout against Pakistan at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, described by Hooper as the "lowest points of my captaincy". The West Indies beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in a two-Test away series last year, but the win failed to satisfy the captain. "No disrespect to Zimbabwe, but they're not as strong a team as Sri Lanka or Pakistan," said Hooper, who has so far led his team to just three wins in 16 Tests. Ganguly enjoys a better record as he has led his country to 10 victories in 22 Tests, but is as keen to win here as his counterpart. His team's fortunes have been steadily nose-diving since a stunning 2-1 victory over Steve Waugh's Australians at home last year. If India win, it will be its first Test series victory outside the sub-continent in 16 years. Ganguly's team settled for a 1-1 draw in Zimbabwe last year and then lost in South Africa and Sri Lanka. "If we win here, we'll think we've done extremely well on the West Indies tour," Ganguly, 29, said. Hooper was often criticised for not bridging the gap between potential and performance, but he has been at his best in the current series. He has so far scored 556 with the help of a maiden double-century and two hundreds, making a mockery of the pre-series belief that it is all about Tendulkar vs Lara. Hooper's closest rival is fellow-Guyanese Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who has not been dismissed in his last three innings on way on to an impressive series tally 445, which includes three centuries. This was the first time Hooper had scored 500 in a Test series in his 96-match career. "Statistics are not important for me. I want to win this Test series more than anything else," he said. Hooper said he hoped the pitch would encourage his fast bowlers in the crucial match. "Most of the Test pitches we've have played on here have been supportive. We had a good win against South Africa here last year and I hope it won't be any different this time." Teams (from): India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Wasim Jaffer, Shiv Das, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Ajay Ratra, Javagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Sanjay Bangar, Deep Dasgupta, Sharandeep Singh, Dinesh Mongia and Tinu Yohannan. West Indies: Carl Hooper (captain), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Mervyn Dillon, Pedro Collins, Cameron Cuffy, Adam Sanford, Ryan Hinds and Dinanath Ramnarine. Umpires: David Shepherd (England) and Russell Tiffin (Zimbabwe). Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

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