Despite the visiting Indian team winning the ODI series 3 – 2, it is safe to say that in terms of performance both teams were almost level pegging. With the West Indians claiming glory in the last two ODIs, the momentum of the tour has shifted and lies firmly in the hands of the Caribbean nation. But one must keep in mind that the ODI team was composed largely of India’s benchwarmers or future stars but the team that takes to battle in the Test match will possess most of machine guns. The Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica bears witness to the first of three Test matches between India and West Indies with the world’s best Test team looking to cement their place on the pedestal with a win characteristic of champions. With the 5 day game kicking start on Monday the 20th of June, one thing is for certain, the Windies will give their more illustrious visitors a run for their money.
With two wins on the trot against the Indians, the otherwise deflated West Indies team is on a high. Their pace attack ensured that the Indian team failed to traverse too far beyond the 250 range in the 5 game ODI series and proved to be a real nemesis for the Men in Blue. The hosts won the final ODI by an easy 7 wicket margin thanks to an impressive bowling display at the top and then a match-winning as well as a crowd pleasing display from Darren Bravo which included 6 sixes. The Windies displayed heart, commitment and surprisingly some deal of quality in their play which had not only the opponents flabbergasted but also the frugal crowd in the stadium.
The West Indies rely largely on the feisty pace of their fast bowlers and a couple of stubborn batsmen who seemed glued to the crease while knocking around the ball. The likes of Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul troubled the Indian batsmen greatly stemming the run flow and frustrating them enough to help their support cast pick up the scalps. With the return of Fidel Edwards to the fray as well, the revamped Indian batting order may be asked some serious questions by the aforementioned players.
The hosts are oozing confidence after thumping India in their last two ODIs. Performances came from all quarters with the likes of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo stepping up to be counted. Apart from Bravo, the other two batsmen played innings that would be best suited for Test cricket and without the pressure of acceleration and only stability and consistency being the need of the hour, one feels that the West Indies could be a real force to reckon with in this Test series.
The deterioration in India’s form in the last 2 ODIs could be put down to complacency, lack of quality or even inexperience. The World Champions were annihilated by a West Indian team that should ideally be wallowing in the mire considering their Board-Player dispute coupled by the series defeat already. The little lads of India failed to end the series in style and assure themselves a future of considerations and chances in more crucial tours over the coming months. With shoddy displays from players of great potential such as Shikhar Dhawan and Subramaniam Badrinath, one wonders when next these flopped youngsters would make a comeback.
With the addition of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the Indian batting line-up is much better equipped to take on the pace of the West Indian attack. But with Laxman and Dravid having little international action over the past year, it won’t be too naive to doubt their immediate effectiveness. Dhoni’s arrival would mean relinquishing the gloves for Parthiv Patel, who will most likely continue to open the batting. India’s batting line up has a blend of youth and experience but one that doesn’t inspire too much confidence. With stalwarts Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir nursing injuries and Sachin Tendulkar on leave, the Indian line-up is one patched and sewn in places where the cloth isn’t even torn. One hopes for that this awkwardly put together unit is able to live upto the best batting team status in the world.
India’s bowling department is hampered by the absence of pace bowler Zaheer Khan and the effervescent Sreesanth. Their replacements Abhimanyu Mithun and Praveen Kumar hardly live upto the bill when it comes to the demands of Test cricket but after accumulating experience in the ODIs one is optimistic about their ability to do the job. With the clear-headed, composed and confident Dhoni leading India in the Test series, we expect the visitors to go for the kill and take Jamaica by storm.
West Indies (LWDDD)
20 May: lost to Pakistan by 196 runs
12 May: beat Pakistan by 40 runs
01 Dec: drew with SL
23 Nov: drew with SL
15 Nov: drew with SL
2 Jan: draw with SA
26 Dec: beat SA by 87 runs
16 Dec: lost to SA by an innings and 15 runs
20 Nov: beat NZ by an innings and 198 runs
12 Nov: draw with NZ
West Indies Squad: Barath, Simmons, Bravo, Sarwan, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Baugh, Sammy, Roach, Bishoo, Rampaul
Vice-captain Brendan Nash is likely to miss out amongst the batsmen after Bravo's heroics with the bat in the last game. Fidel Edwards too will probably need to wait for either Roach or Rampaul to underperform before he gets a chance.
India Squad: Vijay, P Patel, Dravid, Kohli, Laxman, Badrinath, Dhoni, H.Singh, Mishra, I Sharma, M.Patel
Virat Kohli is a cinch to move into Tendulkar's slot in the batting order and the only question is will he bat ahead of or behind new vice-captain VVS Laxman. The battle for the sixth position is between Suresh Raina and Subramaniam Badrinath. Neither man has covered himself in glory in this series and at the end of the day it is likely to be a management call that gets one of them the nod. Ishant Sharma despite his indifferent form has to be selected for the test match as he is the only bowler in the Indian ranks with any genuine pace. Munaf Patel might edge out Praveen Kumar, who would be keen to make his test debut.
Players to Watch
Lendl Simmons – One of the most consistent players in the ODI series, Simmons is a batsman tailor-made for the longest format of the game and one is certain that he will frustrate the depleted Indian attack upfront. With steady and confident strokes and an unnerving ability to stick around for long periods, the right hander will be the Windies’ most potent weapon on largely bowler friendly tracks.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni – In Captain Charisma, the Indians have an astute leader, a world class wicket keeper and a devilish batsman. With his reduced tuft of hair, Dhoni will use this series to get into the groove in order to tackle the challenge of England that lays ahead. He will think big and think hard and won’t let you know a thing and India will require him to step up on all three fronts to help them to glory.
Prediction: The game is a tough one to call and one is confident that neither team will give up without a fight. India however will be firm favourites owing to their World No.1 status as well as the return of a few of their stalwarts. With neither team looking likely to score in excess of 400, a draw seems largely out of the question, and we believe the Indian spin twins - Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh - have the ability to bowl them to victory.