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India well equipped to counter West Indian unpredictability

Dwayne Bravo will hope his top-order batsmen will shed their inconsistency at The Oval

India well equipped to counter West Indian unpredictability - Cricket News
Tuesday’s game will present Narine with a real test.
The equation for India and West Indies is fairly simple. Having won their first matches, victory here will almost certainly guarantee a semi-final place, provided there’s no complete meltdown in the final game. India certainly won’t want to go into a match against Pakistan with a last-four place at stake. West Indies, whose recent ODI record against South Africa is so poor, also won’t fancy a winner-takes-all situation.

Though the surface in Cardiff was to its liking, India won’t be too disappointed by the move to The Oval. The pitch there should be a tougher proposition for the batsmen, but if the West Indies-Pakistan match was any guide, there will also be far more assistance for Umesh Yadav and the other pace bowlers. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will also enjoy bowling in conditions that are generally spin-friendly as well.

Shikhar Dhawan’s dazzling hundred may have eclipsed his efforts, but after Rohit Sharma’s telling contribution at the top of the order against South Africa, there will be no tinkering with the batting line-up. Though they didn’t make big scores in the South Africa game, Dinesh Karthik and Virat Kohli were the men in form in the warm-up games. MS Dhoni too has been striking the ball beautifully. The only dark clouds hover over Suresh Raina, whose short-ball travails will no doubt have put a few ideas in the minds of Kemar Roach, Dwayne Bravo and Ravi Rampaul.

The West Indies batting remains a conundrum. On a good day, it has the firepower to pulverise any side. Chris Gayle alone can take a game away from you. But the collapse that nearly handed Pakistan a win has become the norm for the West Indies in 50-over tournaments. The gap between batting potential and performance was one that it failed to bridge at the 2011 World Cup and, if it is to win the tournament, it’s an issue that Ottis Gibson, the coach, and Bravo will have to address quickly.

Sunil Narine bowled beautifully against Pakistan, but Tuesday’s game will present him with a real test. For the Indian batsmen, who have all played him for two seasons in the Indian Premier League, Narine is no surprise mystery bowler. They will respect him, but also doubtless look to get after him. Saeed Ajmal showed in the 2011 World Cup semifinal that India too can be undone by spin, but Narine will need to show real composure to replicate that sort of performance.  

The furore over Dinesh Ramdin and the catch that never was took some of the sheen off West Indies’ opening victory, but there won’t be any lack of focus at a venue where it has enjoyed so many great days in the past. Tino Best remains in contention, but a change to the XI that beat Pakistan is unlikely with Narine the only specialist slow bowler in the side.  

It was slightly overcast and fairly chilly on Monday morning when India arrived to practise at The Oval. Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, joked that both teams – “warm-blooded creatures” – would prefer it to be 10 degrees warmer, and if the weather stay as it is, another low-scoring encounter is on the cards.

India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.

West Indies (likely): Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo (capt), Dinesh Ramdin (wk), Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul. 

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