05 March 2015
India v West Indies Preview, Match 28, Perth
India is unbeaten in the tournament thus far, but West Indies has the firepower in its batting to pose a challenge
India has managed thus far to remain in its own cocoon, focussing more on its skills and the execution of its plans rather than reacting to the standard of the opposition.
India has managed thus far to remain in its own cocoon, focussing more on its skills and the execution of its plans rather than reacting to the standard of the opposition. It isn’t as if it has completely turned its attention inward; it has prepared for each match meticulously, it has worked out plans for batsmen and bowlers alike. It has identified weak links and key moments, and it has stepped in for the kill with ruthless single-mindedness. But essentially, its energies have been directed more on itself than on who it is up against, and that isn’t necessarily the worst tack.
To those who feel India hasn't been tested yet, it is worth remembering that it hasn't allowed itself to be tested. The batting, historically the strongest suit, is clearly in good health, as evidenced by scores of 300 and 307 against Pakistan and South Africa respectively, followed by the fairly dominant chase of UAE’s 102 at this same venue last Saturday. The fielding, no longer riding on a wing and a prayer, has stood up at crucial times, most notably against South Africa when AB de Villiers and David Miller paid the ultimate price for perhaps not taking the fast bowlers’ arms seriously enough. But most heartening has been the all-round potency, incisiveness and accuracy of a bowling group that has been relentlessly, nakedly aggressive in its approach.
Mohammed Shami has been the ace in the fast bowling pack, R Ashwin has been quite brilliant in the middle overs, and the rest have complemented the two strike forces with purpose. Shami had a no-punches-pulled outing in the nets on Thursday to prove that he had completely recovered from the knee injury that necessitated an injection and kept him out of the UAE victory. Having used the bouncer to good effect even on the slower tracks in Adelaide and Melbourne, he should be looking forward to having a go at the West Indies top order on a strip a lot more responsive.
It’s the same track on which Australia defeated Afghanistan on Wednesday. How much it will have changed in character by the time of the toss on Friday is open to question; the heat will undoubtedly have some say on how the surface behaves as the match unfolds.
Of course, when it is on song, West Indies can’t be bothered about things such as the heat, the nature of the pitch, the strength and quality of the opposition. It is the most carefree of the Test-playing nations, which isn’t to be confused with a lack of ambition or drive. Its approach to cricket is almost a throwback to the amateur days or, more contemporarily, to the approach of say an Afghanistan or a UAE – we are not talking skill sets here, just the way it plays its cricket. Its enjoyment is there for all to see, but along the way sometimes, the processes get blurred; Jason Holder, the new young skipper, must dig deep to make sure his senior group can somehow find the key to fusing entertainment and enjoyment with effectiveness and supreme efficiency.
Any team with Chris Gayle in it can be taken lightly only at your own peril. Already in this tournament, the towering batsman has made his presence felt, becoming just the fourth man to make a One-Day International double hundred. Struggling with a bad back, Gayle has recently hinted at retirement from Test cricket in order to prolong his career. As a senior member and former skipper, it is incumbent upon Gayle to sometimes curb his free spirit and bat with greater responsibility.
And while West Indies has lost Darren Bravo to injury, a look down its batting list can still send shivers down the spine of even the best bowling group in the business.
Gayle. Smith. Samuels. Simmons. Ramdin. Russell. Sammy. It’s the veritable Who’s Who of destructive batsmanship. When it gets it right, like it did against Pakistan and Zimbabwe – why, even in the loss to Ireland – it can be very good. But when things don't go according to plan like against South Africa, questions will be asked. The trick lies in finding the middle ground, in bridging that gulf between exuberance and circumspection. Friday at the WACA won’t be a bad place to begin work on that aspect.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel, Ambati Rayudu.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jonathan Carter, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Jason Holder (capt), Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Jerome Taylor, Johnson Charles.
You can follow the build up to the game and the live scoring and match highlights for India v West Indies here in the ICC Match Centre.
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