Testing conditions for India

Hosts' struggling top-order batsmen need to negotiate Windies pacemen

Testing conditions for India

The quaint, little town of Dharamsala symbolises the lazy charm with which cricket was once associated.

The place is a welcome contrast to the other cricket venues around the country, at a time, when the game and its format are being tailored to suit the brea­kneck speed of today’s life.

For the fans, getting to watch the crucial fourth one-day international between India and the West Indies, the clash is nothing short of a celebration. Perhaps, the calming beauty of this scenic venue would be just what the two teams need before plunging into the grind of on-field battle.

The series, though, has experienced enough bends and turns, much like the mountainous course leading to Dharamsala. It began with the threat of West Indies players boycotting the series following the bitter fight with their board, favourites India succumbing to shock 124-run loss in the opener at Kochi, then fighting from the brink at Delhi to level the series before cyclone Hudhud led to the third ODI at Visakhapatnam being abandoned.The washout has shrunk the series with the spotlight now sharply on the match on Saturday. The winner from here will go with the confidence of wrapping the series in Kolkata.

What enhances the interest in this clash are  the playing conditions. Unlike the last two ODIs, the atmosphere will be cold and the pitch promises true bounce. While the pitch is said to be full of runs, the batsmen, however, would need to exercise caution at least in the first 10 overs. This is where India, in particular, would need to be careful. The West Indies fast bowlers promise to excel when the surface offers pace and bounce. Ravi Rampaul and Jerome Taylore have troubled the Indian batsmen with the new ball and the stage here is indeed inviting for them.

The Indian batsmen have been vulnerable in playing the swing. For India, the new opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane, thus, will have a crucial role to play with the new ball. The bane of India’s vaunted batting, of late, has been the inability of the top order to click. It is time Dhawan and Rahane get cracking.

The Indian dressing room would also be praying that Virat Kohli’s 62 at Kotla, coming in at No. 4, was a precursor for better exploits. The middle-order has been held firm by Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who have ensured respectable finishes. India also need to improve their showing in the second power play.

Though the spinners rose to the occasion at Kotla, the fast bowlers continue to be a matter of worry. The West Indies openers have prospered in both the matches with none of the Indian seamers getting the early breakthrough. India have been banking heavily on spinners, even during the death overs. At Kotla along with an incisive Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami did bowl a late inspiring spell to trigger the Caribbean collapse but he could do with more consistency. The pitch at HPCA should allow him as well Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bring their best to the table.

 As for West Indies, their problem seems self-inflicted. Their recklessness cost them the match from a winning position at Kotla with Dwayne Smith agonisingly missing out on his maiden ODI century in 93 appearances. If only the batsmen could match the efforts of the bowlers, West Indies would give India the run for their money.For both the sides Dharamsala would be the redemption ground.



The teams (from): India: MS Dhoni (Capt & WK), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Axar Patel, Murali Vijay and Kuldeep Yadav.

West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (Capt), Darren Bravo, Jason Holder, Leon Johnson, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (WK), Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor and Sulieman Benn.Match officials: Umpires: Ian Gould and Vineet Kulkarni; Third umpire: Anil Chawdhury; Fourth umpire: Nitin Menon; Match referee: Jeff Crowe.

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