Jun 30, 2013 Sports Comments Off on West Indies v India, Tri-series, Kingston…Young champions start afresh against hosts
ESPNcricinfo – Six months ago, Indian cricket was supposed to be at its nadir. On the back of those eight successive overseas Test defeats came a shocking home Test series loss to England. Reeling in the face of doomed conquests and fallen bastions, MS Dhoni and his men managed to come up with the ultimate public relations disaster – a home one-day series defeat to Pakistan. There was nowhere to hide. Australia had arrived to play four Tests. Fortunately for India, the visitors had no clue about facing spin and had plenty of demons of their own to handle. Then came the IPL to distract everyone. And then India went to England – where their mighty had
begun to fall in 2011 – and won the Champions Trophy with a squad so young and inexperienced the major justification for its selection was that planning for the 2015 World Cup had already started.
Suddenly, it is India this and India that, Dhoni this and Dhoni that. So what do the No. 1 ranked ODI side, the World Cup and Champions Trophy holders have to gain from a tri-series arranged primarily so that the other participating boards could gain from their financial clout? To appreciate that, we have to recall what Dhoni often says about young players in the squad. As a World Cup approaches, he wants them to have played around 100-150 ODIs so that they have been exposed to multiple situations and have gained enough experience to tackle them. About half of the current squad have not even played 30. Yes, they won the Champions Trophy, but taking that as anything more than a start is to forget what state the side was in just six months ago.
The opening combination is nascent. The fast bowlers, barring Ishant Sharma, are new to international cricket. India need them to gain as much exposure as possible in the next 18 months or so, provided the selectors show their faith in this set of men can last longer than a couple of series.
India’s opponents, West Indies, showed against Sri Lanka in the opening game why an ODI ranking of No. 8 does them no justice, especially when they actually use some of their enormous potential. West Indies have done little more recently than to terrorise Zimbabwe and New Zealand at home. A bonus-point win over Sri Lanka was a refreshing start but, as always, the question with West Indies will be, can they reproduce that kind of performance all through this series?
In the spotlight
India’s openers had a dream run in the Champions Trophy, their partnerships reading 127, 101, 58, 77 and 19. Shikhar Dhawan returns to the venue of a failed comeback to the India side in 2011, while Rohit Sharma returns to the place where he was Man of the Series in 2011. Dhawan is the man who can do no wrong at the moment, while – despite successive fifties at an unfamiliar position in the Champions Trophy – Rohit is still walking around with the familiar tag of the underachiever. Both would have developed some sort of understanding during the Champions Trophy. How will they build on it in this series?
After 57 ODIs, Darren Bravo’s average is similar to Rohit’s, with a strike-rate from the 1990s. The aesthetic comparisons with his great uncle will probably continue for as long as he plays, but after four years of international cricket, it is time Bravo starts to draw comparisons in the areas of consistency and impact. He has shown glimpses of that at the Test level, and a 71-ball ODI hundred against Zimbabwe earlier this year was a sign of what he is capable of in this format.
The big win against Sri Lanka should encourage West Indies to go in with the same XI. Kemar Roach was a bit of a letdown in that match, but he earned backing from his captain, who said while West Indies were glad to have someone like Tino Best in the reserves, there was no issue with Roach’s performance.
The conditions might have changed completely, but that does not mean India will be rushing to change the combination that won five successive games in the Champions Trophy.
Pitch and conditions
Angelo Mathews thought the toss was crucial on Friday, as the Sabina Park pitch eased out in the second innings. Sri Lanka had been put in on what Mathews called a two-paced surface, which had a few dark patches suggesting uneven distribution of moisture. However, there was no alarming swing or seam.
The expected rain didn’t arrive on Friday though skies remained overcast for large parts of the game. There is some chance of rain again on Sunday.
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