India gear up for Caribbean storm

Chance for MS Dhoni's brigade to assure themselves a place in the knockout stage

India gear up for Caribbean storm

It’s been more than 23 years since India and the West Indies played out an exciting tie here in the tri-series that remains the only meeting in ODIs between the two sides at the WACA.

India, after being put into bat first, were cleaned up for 126 in 47.4 overs but the West Indies didn’t fare any better and were bundled out for the same total in 41 overs on a fast, bouncy surface where pacemen from either side held sway over the batsmen. While the Caribbean attack -- comprising Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Patrick Patterson and Anderson Cummins – softened the Indian batsmen with pace, the West Indian batsmen succumbed to the craftiness of Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath and Subroto Banerjee. Srinath, though, could match any of those WI pacers for pace at that point of time.

It was one of the few occasions when India employed a four-pronged pace attack and when skipper Mohammad Azharuddin exhausted the quota of all four fast bowlers, he preferred the part-time medium pace of Sachin Tendulkar to Ravi Shastri’s left-arm spin. Tendulkar induced an edge off No 10 batsman Cummins to Azharuddin at slip with the Windies needing one run for victory. The eight pacemen spread over either side took 19 wickets between them while the other wicket went to Tendulkar’s military medium pace.
The WACA surface still is one of the fastest pitches in the world but it has tamed down a lot over the last two decades. Occasionally, they do come up with a nasty square here, but by and large it no longer invokes the fear into batsmen’s minds it used to. That the India-West Indies match will be played on the same deck as that of Australia-Afghanistan game held on Wednesday, it discourages the teams pack their bowling units with pacemen.

It will be tempting for the West Indies to bring in the pacy Kemar Roach into the side to exploit the bounce in the pitch but Jerome Taylor hasn’t done anything wrong to be dropped while skipper Jason Holder can’t be left out. There is an option of leaving out Sulieman Benn to accommodate Roach and hope Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels don’t go for plenty. All-rounders Andre Russell and Darren Sammy then will have to send down more overs than they usually do. The bowling has been of a real concern for the Windies who couldn’t defend 304 against Ireland while South Africa plundered 408 off them.
Against in-from Indian batsmen, the Windies can’t afford to be wayward. India, with three wins in as many matches, are all but through to the quarterfinals but a win on Friday will put them in the knockouts beyond any doubt while the loss will jeopardise West Indies’ chances to a great extent. India are unlikely to tinker much with their combination. Mohammad Shami, who was rested for the UAE game with a left-knee niggle, may return for what promises to be India’s last big game in Group B. The Indian pace spearhead had a decent bowl and then batted during Thursday’s practice, showing encouraging progress. Both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be expected to be in the XI as dropping the latter will leave India with a batsman light.

India will also have to address their batting at the backend of the innings which has been pretty poor. While a good show by the top-order has ensured them two big scores, the lower middle-order has failed to sustain the momentum. The bowlers have done an excellent job so far. But if someone like Gayle gets stuck in, even a total of 300 appears inadequate. Windies would have been happy to see Gayle bat in Thursday’s ‘nets’  though the Jamaican’s movements were largely restricted with his troubled back playing up again.                

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