Openers' poor form a cause for concern for India

Openers' poor form a cause for concern for India

West Indies target another victory

Openers' poor form a cause for concern for India

In the absence of regular openers – Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir – Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane formed a potent force at the top of the order in the shorter version of the series with healthy but brisk starts. Cut to the present, India have struggled to get decent starts in the one-day series against the West Indies despite the return of two of the three stalwarts.

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma pulled the hosts out of the woods in the first two matches, but the Sehwag-led young side ran out of its luck, crashing to a 16-run loss on Monday night. Twice on the trot, India had managed to claw their way back to win from dodgy positions; 159/7 in Cuttack chasing 211 and 29/2 chasing 270 in Visakhapatnam.

Despite a sublime 95 from Rohit, India failed to undo the early damage that saw them slip to 105/6 in pursuit of 261 in Ahmedabad. The first defeat of the series also prompted the stand-in skipper to serve a gentle reminder to his struggling top-order to get its act right.

Having missed out on a chance to take an unassailable lead at Motera, India, who are up 2-1, will desperately wish at least one of their top three batsmen come up good as they seek a series-clinching result in the fourth day-night encounter here at the Holkar Stadium on Thursday.

Sehwag, who has pushed his regular partner Gambhir to number three apparently to get the team combination right, has just 46 runs from the last three innings while India’s best start in the series so far has been an inadequate 37-run stand in Cuttack between the skipper and Parthiv. To add to their woes, Gambhir too is going through a wretched patch with a princely 16 from three hits.

After showing encouraging signs in England, Parthiv has been a big let-down, accumulating a meagre 120 runs in the last seven ODIs at home. The Gujarat wicketkeeper might have got an extended run in the series, but patience is certainly wearing thin in the team think-tank. Another left-hander hoping to get amongst runs is Suresh Raina whose last three innings have fetched just seven runs, including a duck.

However, the young bowling unit has acquitted itself well with a disciplined show, notwithstanding the traditional death-over profligacy. Without being extraordinary, the likes of R Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and A Mithun have kept things tidy and with the inclusion of left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan, the attack now wears a slightly experienced look. Returning to the national  squad after almost three years, the Boroda all-rounder will be keen to make his chance count, should he get one and in which case he will be a straight swap with the Australia-bound Yadav.

The West Indies finally delivered what the islanders had been threatening all along their tour of India. The Darren Sammy-led side, lacking in experience but high on talent, had pushed its superior opponents on the back foot on a few occasions but hadn’t quite managed to convert the advantage into victory. The moment arrived in Ahmedabad and the visitors have every reason to eye an encore here.

The injury to Darren Bravo, who retired hurt during the third tie, may have denied the Caribbeans the services of the stylish southpaw for Thursday’s affair, but the Windies still have enough resources at their disposal to challenge the World champions on equal footing. On what promises to be a batting surface despite a generous green cover, a sell-out crowd would be hoping for another humdinger.

Teams (from):
India: Virender Sehwag (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, A Mithun, Varun Aaron, Irfan Pathan, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Lendl Simmons, Danza Hyatt, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Sunil Narine, Adrian Barath, Anthony Martin, Jason Mohammed, Kieran Powell.

Umpires: Tony Hill (New Zealand) and S Ravi; Third Umpire: Sudhir Asnani; Match referee: David Boon (Australia).