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Dec 11, 2010

A cricket match played at Queen's Park Oval

West Indies vs England 2008-09, Day One, Fifth Test, Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad

There is one going on currently at the 79 year old cricket ground in Trinidad and Tobago, between the West Indies and England.

This is the place of greats - both cricketing and others. This is the land of Wesley HallBrian LaraDeryck MurrayConstantineBishopHolfordLogiePhil SimmonsDwayne Bravo and so many others I have failed to mention. It is also where fresh flavours of new West Indian hope springs from in the form of Darren BravoAdrian Barath and Lendl Simmons. Dwayne's younger sibling is a treat promised to the cricket watching world in the Brian Lara flavour.

Around the cricket field, perhaps on it, or maybe along the boundary ropes, or somewhere near the Queen's Park Oval at the very least, have also trodden CLR James and Vidiadhar Naipaul.

When you think about all that a shiver travels up and down your spine - what can you write in a blog that can do justice to the heritage of these two islands? Yet there is the thrill of trying...of exploring and learning more about the T&Ties or Titties.

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Thirty-eight years ago to the date, on March 6th, 1971, a gentleman by the name of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, played his first innings in test cricket for India. He began with 65 runs and concluded his career with many more than that. The man ultimately scored 13 hundreds, including three double-hundreds, and 2749 runs against the West Indian teams of his era at an average of 65-and-a-half.

In the same pioneering series for India, SM Gavaskar returned to Queen's Park Oval for the final test, which was extended to six days since the series wasn't decided yet (India was leading by the match it won in which Sunny made his debut earlier at QPO). Here, in his debut series, on the same ground he had debuted a month earlier, Sunny Gavaskar scored 124 and 220, the first of a few times he did century in both innings, to ensure that India sailed away from the Caribbeans to the island of England to record its another "first" there in terms of series wins.

Sunnybhai finished the first test series of his life, which began and ended at this QPO, with a monumental effort 774 runs off just 8 innings at an average of over 154.

Brian Charles Lara played know, Brian...Lara of the 400* fame remember? The great man musta played here as a kid too!

While writing this blog today on a cricket match being played at Queen's Park Oval, I am burdened by this vast history...the cricket this ground delivered to the world through the bodies of these exalted gentlemen...the pace it unleashed in the form of Hall and Bishop.

But I see, in a small way,the West Indies team of today is in a position similar to India's in 1971 - India won its first test series in West Indies back then by winning first here and then coming back to grind out a draw over six days of play. Today, West Indies comes here leading England 1-0 to reclaim the Wisden Trophy.

West Indies last won the Wisden Trophy more than a decade ago, and have since been dominated by the Englishmen over four series.

Greater than that, it will also mark the first series win for West Indies since 2004, when they won over Bangladesh or six years since they last beat a team either on par or rated higher than itself.Cricinfo - West Indies Series

So you see, there are some parallels between the cricket matches played then, exactly 38 years ago, and the cricket match being played here today.

West Indies has been on a long journey of self-discovery. Many hands have driven their wagon, around many forks, bends and turns, each falsely heralding the end of their wanderings. Today, under the guidance of Chris Gayle and his peers, the wagon stands at a significant crossing - with five-day's worth of effort more, they could actually claim to have recovered some lost ground.

Oh yes, a cricket match is indeed being played at Queen's Park Oval today.

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Briefly on the play thus far -

England have dropped Harmison and taken on two spinners - Monty and Swann - and are blooding Amjad Khan instead of Sidebottom. They reckon it is spin which will trouble. England are clearly attacking with the last of what they have.

West Indies on the other hand have dropped Benn and picked up Lendl Simmons - the man who made all those runs against the Englishmen at the start of the series in a tour game. They reckon they will grind the Englishmen out of the game with their bats - the depth of batting is significant - and their bowling is good enough to puncture the British bikers' trip.

Kevin Pietersen, having escaped an earlier poor decision via the referrals, just now falls to Hinds - clean bowled for mere double figures.

And Hinds can bat too by the way.

Shah is injured and is retired hurt.

It appears that we will have to wait then for the contest between English bowlers and West Indian batting to sense some competition.

Believe me, at the moment, it looks like a terribly one-sided affair to me - the dice is indeed loaded against one and there are only five days.

However, Captain Strauss is well on course for yet another hundred this series. Will he hold West Indies out?

West Indies will also need a good batting performance...this one's spinning.

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