Lacklustre Windies eyes better show in shorter format

After a 0-2 thrashing in the Test series, West Indies will have to do well to put up a good fight and run the host close in the 50-over format.

West Indies players engage in a training session ahead of the first ODI against India in Guwahati.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Back in 2002, West Indies managed to grab a consolation prize on a tour to India. After losing the three-match Test series 0-2, the side edged out India 4-3 in the ODIs. But that was a long time ago, and the passage of time has not been kind to Caribbean cricket.

West Indies has since lost all four of the bi-lateral ODI series that have been held in this part of the world. Disputes with the board, lucrative offers for players from private Twenty20 leagues and other factors have taken a toll on the field.

It would, therefore, be a tough ask for the current West Indies side to emulate the comeback victory scripted by Carl Hooper’s men. After a 0-2 thrashing in the Tests, the visitor will have to do well to put up a good fight and run the host close in the 50-over format. The capitulation in the five-day outings, with both matches ending in three days, does not inspire confidence.

Indian skipper Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni sweat it out on the eve of the first ODI against West Indies.



The absence of key players – Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo and Sunil Narine – is a big setback. While Gayle – the man-of-the-series in the 2002 battle – has made himself unavailable for selection, Russell, Pollard and Bravo will feature only in the Twenty20 series to follow. Spinner Sunil Narine finds no place in either the ODI or Twenty20 parties. A few days ago, another blow was dealt when opener Evin Lewis withdrew from the tour, citing
personal reasons.

The side does have a familiar name in Marlon Samuels, who has found great success in ODIs played on Indian soil. The charismatic Samuels, incidentally, is set to earn his 200th ODI cap on Sunday. For the three uncapped players - Chandrapaul Hemraj, all-rounder Fabian Allen and fast bowler Oshane Thomas – and indeed for the rest of the bunch, a good show here will boost their chances of earning spots in the 2019 ODI World Cup.

The Indian team, on the other hand, is ahead of the curve. The No.2 ranked nation in the world is coming off a triumphant Asia Cup campaign, which blunted at least some of the criticism that came from a tough tour of England.

Indian pacer Umesh Yadav in a training session.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

Virat Kohli returns after being rested for the Asia Cup, and the skipper will look to continue from where he left off. Kohli has racked up 749 runs in nine matches this year, at an astounding average of 124.8. Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan (785 runs) are on course to score 1000 runs in this calendar year – a feat achieved by only England’s Jonny Bairstow. Add Rohit Sharma – the second-highest scorer in the Asia Cup behind Dhawan – to the mix, and you have a top-order of the highest quality.

The two-drop slot, open for grabs until recently, goes to Ambati Rayudu. Karnataka teammates K. L. Rahul and Manish Pandey have been cut from the 14-member squad for this fixture. Rishabh Pant has earned his maiden ODI call-up, as a pure batsman. M. S. Dhoni, though not in the best of form with the bat, is the man for the wicketkeeping role. His clean and safe skills behind the stumps, as well as his tactical acumen, remain undiminished.

The wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal continue to enjoy the confidence of the team management. Ravindra Jadeja – drafted in as the all-rounder to replace the injured Hardik Pandya – is the lone finger-spin option. Umesh Yadav, on a high after bagging a 10-for in the second Test, joins Mohammed Shami and rookie Khaleel Ahmed to form the fast-bowling attack. The absence of first-choice pace options, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, gives the trio the chance to impress the selectors ahead of the World Cup.
 

The teams:

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, M.S. Dhoni, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav.

West Indies: Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Oshane Thomas.