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India starts off against confident hosts

With the conditions being what they are, India might consider playing an extra spinner while West Indies should play an unchanged XI

India starts off against confident hosts - Cricket News
Shikhar Dhawan of India shares a joke with Kieron Pollard of West Indies.
India will be stepping on to the field exactly a week after being crowned the 2013 Champions Trophy winners when it takes on West Indies on Sunday (June 30) in the tri-nation series at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica. With West Indies outclassing Sri Lanka in the first match of the tournament on Friday, this promises to be a contest between equals and a large crowd – with plenty of supporters from both sides – is expected to be groundside.
 
For India, this will not be just another game and Mahendra Singh Dhoni said as much, when he talked about the level of expectations from the team, before the tournament kicked off. After all, fans of the Indian team expect the players to come out on top every time they put on the India gear.
 
India used the same playing XI in all its matches at the Champions Trophy and this tournament provides an opportunity for Dhoni to test his bench strength. In any case, the conditions in the Caribbean could convince Dhoni to play three spinners and two seamers, which might bring Amit Mishra in to the frame. Dhoni, however, has been noncommittal about any line-up changes and might wait till closer to the match before making up his mind.
 
As well as the Indian batsmen have performed in recent times, there are still things to be gained and improved. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have started their newly-formed opening partnership on a positive note and would want to push that forward. Rohit, especially, would be keen to convert the starts he has been getting and put an end to any doubts over his spot in the team. Suresh Raina has not had a decent hit in a while, having faced only 16 deliveries in the entire Champions Trophy. And Virat Kohli, who scores a century every eight outings, hasn’t made one since July 2012 (14 innings), and like Chris Gayle, his teammate from Royal Challengers Bangalore, he would also want to score a big one to come out of the no-century stretch.
 
India is the No. 1-ranked One-Day International team in the world while West Indies is in seventh place. But the near-perfect game West Indies played against Sri Lanka would have boosted its morale and that should help when it faces India. With Gayle in form, a capable bowling attack led by Sunil Narine, the No. 1 bowler in ODIs, and the crowd support, the gap between West Indies and India might not be as much as the rankings indicate.
 
Dwayne Bravo, however, chose to focus on the processes that would push West Indies up the rankings table rather than getting caught up in the swirl of just upending India. “One game (even if we win) does not say we are the best. Even if we beat India on Sunday or win the series, it still doesn’t make us the No. 1 team. It is a process. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves,” said Bravo.
 
Even though Kemar Roach was the least economical of the bowlers against Sri Lanka, and was also taken apart by India during their Champions Trophy game, Bravo chose to back him, saying that Tino Best will just have to wait his turn. “He (Roach) had a bad game (against India) but he was the one that got us into position against Pakistan. He is one of our better bowlers,” said Bravo. “When we play our best XI, Kemar Roach is there with the best.“
 
Going by what Bravo said, West Indies would be expected to play the same XI that faced Sri Lanka, barring any last minute niggles.
 
The key battles will be between the Indian top order and the West Indian quicks and, obviously, between the Indian medium pacers and Gayle. Gayle averages 36.33 against India, but in the nine matches he has played against India since 2007, he has only scored 212 runs with a best of 64. It will be interesting to see if Dhoni employs R Ashwin early if Gayle takes off against the Indian seamers as Ashwin has got the better of Gayle in some crunch situations during the Indian Premier League over the years. Elsewhere, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been a reliable option with the new ball in recent times, it remains to be seen how well he performs when there isn’t much assistance through the air or off the track.
 
It is early in the tournament but the teams would still not want to concede even an inch. Two teams then, both with good batting and bowling departments, on a Sunday, in conditions they will be familiar with, should make for a very good spectacle.
 
Teams (from)
West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (capt), Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Devon Smith.
India: MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Murali Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Shami Ahmed.

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