While Greg Chappell’s coaching stint with India had its shares of controversies – be it with Sourav Ganguly or with the fact that he juggled a settled batting line-up or the fact that India crashed out of the World Cup before the knockouts for the first time since 1992. However, there were some silver linings too. His tenure also had a few positives, with the likes of future World Cup winners – MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa and RP Singh among others made their India debuts under his watch. Other than that, India went on achieve the record of successfully chasing down targets in 17 consecutive ODIs, which has not been broken yet. Sadly, the run ended when they were looking to make it 18, on this day against West Indies in 2006.
After John Wright’s successful tenure with the team for five years, a new era donned upon the Indian cricket team, with a settled unit. Openers consisting of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar and the middle-order consisted of Rahul Dravid, Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh among others who had over the years proved to be one of the mainstays of the Indian batting line-up. India were considered one of the strongest sides in the world and after making in to the final of the 2003 World Cup, the aim of the side was to go all the way in 2007 and were one of the strong contenders to do so.
It looked like the Chappell era would be a smooth one, but it turned out to be one of the rockiest periods in Indian cricket.
However India’s habit of chasing down targets started in September 2005, nearly four months after Chappell came in. They beat New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Pakistan (Home and Away) and England before they embarked on their tour of the Caribbean. In the first of the five-match ODI series at Kingston, India extended their run to 17 continuous successful run-chases as a 102-ball 105 from Rahul Dravid overpowered Chris Gayle’s 123 off 130 to hand India a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for India, that’s as good as things got for them in the series.
After this win Chappell had said West Indies had forgotten how to win, which was an overstatement as they had won all previous six of their completed matches. “There are some very talented players in that (West Indies) team. They have just forgotten how to win at the moment and that takes a bit of practice and they have not had as much practice as we have had.” Chappell would be forced to eat his words as the series moved on.
It was not surprising to see Dravid win the toss and elect to field, given India’s purple patch while chasing. India had brought in Ramesh Powar in place of RP Singh and West Indies went into the match unchanged.
West Indies got off to the worst start possible having lost both their openers with just two runs on the board. To further add to their woes, they lost two of their star batsmen Brian Lara (14) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (10) in quick succession and were tottering 43 for 4 after 19 overs. However, Ramnaresh Sarwan held one end up. Marlon Samuels (19) and Carlton Baugh (31) gave him excellent support and put on 60 and 38 with them respectively, which eventually took West Indies’ score past 150. In the final 10 overs, West Indies did quite well to score 61 more runs and Sarwan chipped in with 36 off 29 to finish unbeaten on 98, while his team managed to play out the 50 overs putting up 198 for 9 on the board.
Given that India needed to score at less than four an over, all they needed to do was to bat out their 50 overs and they would have extended their run to 18 continuous wins batting second. Rain had been doing the rounds in Jamaica a day before the start of the match and the pitch as a result might have been a tad damp, making it difficult for the batsmen to score freely. India perhaps needed an innings like the one like Sarwan played to get them over the finish line.
Despite Tendulkar and Ganguly’s absence, India still batted deep. A few adjustments they had to make was making Dravid open and playing Irfan Pathan at No. 3. Ian Bradshaw got the openers quickly and Pathan too did not last too long as India were reduced to 51 for 3 after 14 overs. Three overs later, they found themselves in a sport of bother at 60 for 4 with Mohammad Kaif, who scored an unbeaten 66 in the first match, was dismissed for four.
With West Indies picking up wickets at regular intervals, Raina joined Yuvraj, who was batting on 11 off 21. The duo put on a patient 64-run stand for the fourth wicket and brought India back into the game before Raina played it straight down to Chanderpaul’s throat at long-off for a 55-ball 27. Yuvraj was well set on 45. The spinners – Gayle and Samuels – had done an exceptional job in choking the batsmen and it finally paid off.
MS Dhoni and Ajit Agarkar were dismissed in quick succession after that and India suddenly found themselves 64 runs away from victory with three wickets in hand. The only positive part was Yuvraj was unbeaten on 50. Lara went all out. He got a couple of slips and attacking fielders as he sensed West Indies could potentially pull off something special here.
Powar played sensibly and gave most of the strike to Yuvraj, looked determined to take India home. The duo put on a crucial 34 runs in less than eight overs, before Powar holed out to long-off. India needed a run-a-ball 21 at that stage.
The 48th over yielded nine runs and India needed 12 from 12. Gayle got rid of Harbhajan Singh first ball of the penultimate over and gave away just one run from it. To make things worse, Munaf Patel was on strike for the final over in which India needed 11. Munaf somehow squeezed out Dwayne Bravo’s yorker to scamper through for a single. India needed 10 off 5.
Yuvraj slammed the next two deliveries – one top-edge over the wicketkeeper and then a drive towards cover-point – for a boundary. Could Yuvraj achieve what Lance Klusener could not at a crunch moment in the 1999 World Cup semi-final against Australia?
Bravo then bravely bowled a slow yorker and Yuvraj in a bid to hoist it on the leg-side was through his shot early and the ball crashed into the stumps. West Indies had escaped with a one-run win, leaving Yuvraj distraught, while Bravo and his teammates could not control their jubilation. By the slenderest of margins, India could not win their 18th match on the trot while chasing. After playing a masterful innings, combined with patience, skill and guile, Yuvraj’s 93 off 121 balls went in vain.
India went on to lose the remaining matches of the series and conceded the series 4-1
After taking an unassailable 3-1 lead Lara reacted to Chappell’s statement, saying,” It was a very sly remark (by Chappell). After the first match, the guys took notice of the statement and we turned the tables.”
India went on to register a 1-0 Test series win, which was their first in the West Indies since Ajit Wadekar’s men achieved this feat in 1971. India are yet to lose a Test series in the Caribbean since 2006.
West Indies continued their impressive form into the Champions Trophy 2006 held in India, but lost to Australia in the final.