Indian class vs Windies flair

Tough conditions await both teams as they brace up for a thrilling encounter

Indian class vs Windies flair

Three days after their winning start to the Champions Trophy against South Africa, the Indian team hit the ground for its first practice session in biting cold conditions at the English capital.

After a brand of cricket, that was at once refreshing and regaling, India have firmly established themselves as one of the favourites to go all the way in the final edition of the biennial event. Having reeled off three consecutive wins, including two warm-up matches, this India side struts a quiet confidence that belies the storm around it back home.

It’s been particularly tough for MS Dhoni, whose integrity has been questioned in a section of the media for his alleged conflicts of interest. But the Indian skipper has managed to keep himself and the team unaffected by all the happenings and which is amply reflected in their performance since their arrival in the UK.     

They have been here for a fortnight and already this tour has proved better than their bilateral series against England in 2011. During that forgettable sojourn, India didn’t manage a single win across all formats while this time they have appeared a team to beat with all-round dominance of their rivals.

With an eye on a berth in the semifinals, India will look to tame a solid West Indies who snatched a narrow three-wicket win over Pakistan in their opener here in a low-scoring affair. The forecast for rain on Tuesday, though, threatens to spoil their plans.

From gentle warmth of Cardiff to depressingly overcast conditions of London, there has been a drastic shift in weather and it, therefore, puts them slightly on the back foot so far as acclimatising to the conditions is concerned. West Indies, having emerged unscathed in trying circumstances here, can claim to have better knowledge of the conditions whereas India will have to make quick adjustments to their game.

Their win against South Africa in Cardiff came in vastly differing set-up. The pitch was fairly conducive for batting and there was not much for the bowlers in the way of either swing or spin.

Given how the first match here panned out with fast bowlers from either side putting the batsmen through the ringer, it remains to be seen if India would tweak their strategies.
Though Dhoni gave little hint of his combination for the match, he did suggest that playing four seamers always resulted in slow-over rate which meant he was always in danger of sitting out of a match.

Bringing in another seamer also means excluding either Ravindra Jadeja or R Ashwin, an option Dhoni wouldn’t prefer. Having said that it wouldn’t be a bad gamble to add an extra paceman with the likes of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma can be relied upon to send down a few overs.   

Indian batsmen, on a high after their stupendous show against the Proteas, will face a different challenge here. West Indis may not possess the most potent attack in the world, but they have a bunch of quick bowlers that can be lethal in favourable conditions.

In Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and skipper Dwayne Bravo, the Caribbean pace attack has both variety and edge to test a strong Indian batting. They might also sacrifice a batsman to further bolster their pace department and the 6’8’’ Jason Holder may well get a look-in.    
 
The Windies’ batting too wears an intimidating look notwithstanding its struggles against Pakistani bowlers. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard, batting in that order, can turn the match on its head in the bat of an eyelid.

That they can bat till eight can prove crucial in a low-scoring match. Indian pacers should relish the conditions as well, particularly Bhuvneshwar Kumar whose proven skills to swing will keep India in good stead.

Though Umesh Yadav is a rare find for India with a capacity to bowl fast, he needs to bowl with more precision. Speed without control is a sure recipe for disaster.

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