By Karthik Parimal
After a fiercely-competed series that involved top teams like India and Sri Lanka, the Australians will now face a much lesser degree of challenge as they take on an inexperienced West Indian side in the latter’s backyard. Although the current crop of Australian players have proved their mettle, they cannot afford to get complacent, as this fragile-looking West Indian side is capable of catching the opposition off-guard and capitalising on the situation.
Below are five reasons why Australia can’t afford to take West Indies lightly:
Eager hosts will be wary of weary visitors:
Australia has played non-stop cricket since they toured South Africa a few months ago. They had a very successful home season as they made mincemeat of India and later triumphed in the Commonwealth Bank (CB) Series when they trounced Sri Lanka in the final after four gruelling rounds of league matches. Victories over top sides since last October would have drained this Australian unit - physically and mentally.
On the other hand, the West Indians played their last international game in December 2011. They toured India and performed decently in the Test series but were hammered by the hosts in the One-Day Internationals (ODI). Nevertheless, they had a lot of positives to take away from that tour. The long gap of three months thereafter has given them ample time to learn from their mistakes and form a concrete plan against the visitors. Moreover, they will be a fresh unit eager to get back on the field and perform.
The spinners can spring a surprise:
Devendra Bishoo and Sunil Narine are two spinners who’ve caught the eyes of many in the short time they have been on the big stage. Bishoo has already garnered the experience of 10 Tests and 13 ODIs, whereas Narine has featured in just three ODIs. Nonetheless, his performance for Trinidad & Tobago in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) spoke volumes of the immense potential this young spinner possesses. The fact that two of Australia’s most proficient players of spin, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, are not in the ODI side augurs well for West Indies. Although the rest of the Australian batsmen played the spinners from both India and Sri Lankans fairly well in the recently concluded CB series at home, it will be interesting to see how they handle Bishoo and Narine on a relatively slower and lower West Indian wicket.
Explosive West Indian middle-order:
Despite the absence of their stalwart Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the West Indian middle-order is capable of annihilating any opposition and running away with the match on its day. The likes of Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo have already proved their credentials on the international stage. Pollard and Russell have strike-rates of 102.20 and 124.44 respectively, whereas Bravo too can strike the ball a fair distance. If these three get going during the middle overs, the Australians will be left with no choice but to scale a mammoth total.
They also have a solid, composed player in the form of Darren Bravo, who had a brilliant Test series against India few months ago. All in all, the West Indies has a decent batting unit that can attack and snatch the match away with explosive hitting when needed.
New conditions and an unfamiliar opposition:
Mickey Arthur has been a brilliant coach thus far. He has analysed the situations well and helped the Australians adjust accordingly. Yet again, he hit the nail on the head when warning his team about complacency against an unfamiliar opposition. “We're in conditions that are very different to Australia so that's something we're going to need to get used to very, very quickly. Then the other issue is an unknown opposition. An unknown opposition does present a lot more challenges. They can certainly hit you hard up front and we could be chasing our tails for the rest of the series,” he aptly said.
A side that wants to prove its critics wrong:
The fact that West Indies is an extremely talented side that needs to figure out how to win on a consistent basis has been reiterated by many in the cricket fraternity. Despite the internal conflicts, the West Indians have showed a lot of heart on the field and have come close to winning on numerous occasions; but just haven’t been able to cross the line. Darren Sammy has led the side when no one else showed interest, and he deserves to be backed.
The West Indians have won only two of the last 20 ODIs they played against Australia. Their last win against Australia in an ODI came way back in October 2006, and that too by a narrow margin of just 10 runs. They will desperately want to put an end to their losing streak against the Aussies, and now is the perfect time to strike.
Australia must underestimate West Indies at its own peril.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)