Semi-final berth in sight, India keen to iron out middle-order chinks against West Indies
Virat Kohli's India are undefeated and on 9 points. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: They may be undefeated in the tournament but suddenly, there’s a bit of creakiness about India. As exposed by the Afghanistan spinners in the previous game, the muddle surrounding India’s middle order came to the fore. The issue isn’t alarming but against a side like West Indies – their next opponents – who have the tendency to surprise teams (look no further than the game against New Zealand), India would have to rectify that little vulnerability.

West Indies don’t have spinners of Afghanistan’s calibre. There’s Ashley Nurse and the now-rarely used off spin of Chris Gayle, and besides, it’s all up to the fast bowlers. The pace battery that dismantled Pakistan for 105, rocked Australia’s top order and reduced New Zealand to 7/2. That said, India’s batting, in fact, their top three is far superior than any other. But the ones who follow, not quite you’d say. ALSO READ: Jasprit Bumrah, Kohli’s go-to man

With Australia becoming the first team to qualify for the semi-final, and England’s consecutive losses making the tournament interesting, India, currently with nine points, would be eager to take another step closer to the top four. West Indies, meanwhile, are almost out of the tournament, but virtually stay alive if they win this and till the time the teams in the top bracket of the points table don’t advance. A loss however, and West Indies will join Afghanistan and South Africa on the way out. Such is the nature of the format. ALSO READ: Brathwaite the berserker surprises, stings and almost stuns

If India and West Indies’ previous games are anything to go by, there are no favourites. Afghanistan gave India a scare and West Indies almost pulled off a miraculous chase against New Zealand. India still have the edge though, mentally. Not only because they are yet to taste defeat, but because of the terrific success they had against West Indies in 2018 – one of West Indies’ worst years in cricket. India won the five-match series 3-1 led by Virat Kohli‘s hat-trick of centuries. But besides winning the one game, West Indies also tied one. That is what India need to avoid, West Indies’ ability to deliver a wake-up call.

India though aren’t the only team with middle-order woes. West Indies have been constantly bogged down by the failure of their. Against New Zealand, three top-order batsmen combined for two runs and the other three accounted for 242. Against a formidable bowling attack like India’s, West Indies batsmen have a mountain to climb.

What: India vs West Indies, Match 34, World Cup 2019

When: Thursday, June 27, 2019

Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester

Time: 3:30pm IST

Weather: Cool and breezy conditions with the odd spell of shower expected

Team News

India

Based on India’s optional practice session, there looks to be no change in India’s top order, with Vijay Shankar likely to stick to No. 4. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was back in the nets and bowled for half an hour before leaving the indoor nets. Although he looked good, as per BCCI sources, Bhuvneshwar might be offered further rest to heal completely and Mohammed Shami, following his match-winning hat-trick, is expected to continue. Ravindra Jadeja also had a go in the nets and playing him ahead of either of the two spinners is an option India may consider considering West Indies’ frailty in batting.

Probable XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja/Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

West Indies

Evin Lewis was given throwdowns by Mushtaq Ahmed and seems to have recovered. He is most effective at the top so it is likely that he opens with Gayle. Andre Russell’s ruling out has ensured Carlos Brathwaite a permanent place. Who could even have left him out after his previous knock? Kemar Roach has had decent success against India and West Indies shouldn’t leave him out. Oshane Thomas has leaked runs in the previous two games and replacing him with Shannon Gabriel may not be a bad option.

Probable XI: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Shai Hope, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Carlos Brathwaite, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas/Shannon Gabriel

Stats and Trivia

– India have won four of their last five World Cup matches against West Indies, including the last three matches in succession.

– Kohli has scored 1,840 runs versus West Indies in 32 ODI innings (averaging 70.8), the second-most runs of any man against West Indies in ODIs

– Gayle has scored four centuries versus India in ODIs, his joint-most against any country in the format

Quotes

“We’ve had some close games in our World Cup campaign so far. And it just shows with us playing a few more scenarios a bit better, who knows what the result could have been. We look back on the games that we’ve played and we definitely didn’t seize crucial moments in certain games.” – West Indies captain Jason Holder rues his team’s ability to seize the big moments.

“They do have their strengths. And it’s also a big challenge for the bowlers too – especially when they come after you. But whenever batsmen come after you, if you’re willing to look at it deeply, there is a chance for it – in it for the bowlers, and I think that’s what the bowlers would be looking to do.” – India bowling coach Bharat Arun is not taking West Indies lightly.