India beat West Indies the last time the two teams played in the group match of ICC Champions Trophy 2013 © Getty Images
By Jaideep Vaidya
Kingston (Jamaica): Jun 29, 2013
After being crowned the champions of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in gloomy England and Wales, Team India shift base and focus to the sunny Caribbean in a bid to clinch the triangular series involving West Indies and Sri Lanka. Two years ago, after India had won their first World Cup in 28 years, the team had toured the Caribbean as champions for a short series, thus making it a kind of déjà vu this time around. However, that line-up was missing nine players from the victorious World Cup squad, whereas this time around, India have brought an unchanged squad to the Caribbean Isles from England. MS Dhoni’s men play their first match of the series at Jamaica’s Sabina Park against hosts West Indies, who comprehensively beat the Lankans by six wickets in the opening encounter.
The Windies, by chasing down 208 in just 37.5 overs, have gained a bonus point for their efforts, and thus cannot be taken lightly by the buoyant Indians. Many would have considered the Dwayne Bravo-led side unlucky to have been knocked out of the Champions Trophy after coming on the wrong end of a Duckworth-Lewis calculation in their decider against South Africa. Thus, the calypso kings will be itching to prove a point, more so in the familiarity of home conditions.
The West Indies have a strong batting line-up, full of power hitters such as Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and captain Bravo. Their threat was realised in the first match itself where Gayle and Charles shared a 115-run opening stand that all but took the game out of Sri Lanka’s grasp. The Windies bat deep, right upto former skipper Darren Sammy who comes in at No 8 behind ‘keeper Denesh Ramdin, and thus are capable enough of making you pay dear if taken lightly.
The home team’s bowling attack is no feeble one either, and this was apparent in the first game where mystery spinner Sunil Narine took four wickets and pacer Ravi Rampaul got three. Kemar Roach has also been impressive off late, while Bravo and Sammy are handy medium-pacers in the middle. It is by no means a weak line-up overall and is loaded enough to challenge for the title.
As for India, they played an unchanged eleven throughout their Champions Trophy campaign and would probably do the same here. Who would want to break a winning combination, after all. However, this could be a good chance for Dhoni to give some of the bench warmers in his squad a run. India’s batting is, of course, their trump card and is arguably the best in the world. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja all have had a wonderful outing in the Old Blighty and would like to continue with their form. It is unlikely that Dhoni would make any tweaks to his batting line-up. Where he could experiment is the bowling where players like Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra and Mohammed Shami Ahmed are waiting in the wings.
The pitch at Sabina Park for the first match of the series looked firm with a few cracks here and there — an ideal bat-first track. However, the West Indies chose to bowl first after winning the toss due to the overcast conditions and moisture in the pitch. The forecast for Sunday says that conditions are likely to mirror those on Friday, with a 30 per cent chance of rain, thus the teams could be tempted to give their bowlers first use of the pitch. That being said, the surface could crumble as the game progresses, so don’t be surprised if Dhoni opts to bat first if he wins the toss.
West Indies (Probable): Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo (c), Denesh Ramdin (wk), Darren Sammy, Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach.
India (Probable): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
Time: 20.00 IST | 14.30 GMT
(Jaideep Vaidya is a reporter, sub-editor and analyst at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and multiple sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)