As the India-West Indies series comprising three Tests and five ODIs kicked off on Sunday, Captain Cool and his Team look good to clinch the series. It could even be a whitewash of 3-0 in Tests. That is if the summer performance of the team is any indicator.
What can we expect from this series keeping in mind India will head to Australia at the end of this tour?
The absence of swing bowlers like Praveen Kumar and Sreesanth isn’t surprising as they would not have benefited from bowling on Indian tracks that have traditionally favoured spinners. Indians have gone in with pace and hitting the deck bowlers in Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Thumbs up to the selection team for giving the young pacemen an opportunity in this Test series. It is definitely a positive move to rely on upcoming hungry pacemen than to fall back on tried and tested bowlers in the past. Call it coincidence; this decision was helped due to injuries to the likes of Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel.
The batting looks formidable where the usual suspects, barring the number 6 spot, occupy their respective positions. Ever since Sourav Ganguly retired in October 2008, India has not been able to find a permanent replacement for the No. 6 spot. It is a tussle between Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh for this series and if I were to pick one, I would choose Kohli for two reasons: he is in form and this brings in confidence to the team; and two, he is the man for the future, we need to have him play as many games as possible with the senior squad. Kohli, I believe, is in the mould of Ricky Ponting, who also started his Test career as a No. 6 batsman at a tender age of 21 against Sri Lanka in 1996. And what followed has been history. Kohli is also a potential leader for the future once Dhoni hangs his boots up, and there is no better place than to be in the Indian dressing room at the moment to acquire leadership skills.
There was a question if Dhoni was to be given any rest so as to keep him fresh for the series Down Under. Knowing Dhoni from the past, if he were to require any break from cricket, he himself will be the first person to decide on it. Right now, the Indian skipper is getting back in form batting-wise and one needs solid contribution from MSD now if India is aspiring to win against the Aussies.
However, before we jump to Australia, one must remember cricket is a funny game and West Indies should be our main priority right now.
Harbhajan Singh has finally been dropped, a year too late but nevertheless it has happened. It was time to give Ojha a good run in the Tests. With the emergence of Ashwin, who is making rapid strides, it is good to bring in a bowler who is in good vain than to have players with past baggage. Harbhajan, despite his sparkling past, has not been effective in the past matches. Rahul Sharma, a promising leg spinner is a potential debutant in the squad.
While the Indian team looks promising, except for Ajinkya Rahane and the ones above mentioned, there aren’t any new additions to the team.West Indies on the other hand have a lot of inexperienced players. However, they do have players like the veteran Chanderpaul; Marlon Samuels is making a comeback and will certainly enjoy the pitches being offered for the Test series. The Caribbean bowling department, especially the pace side, looks impressive when compared with India with the likes of Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampaul. Their spin department is slightly unknown with the responsibilities being handled by Devendra Bishoo, Shane Shillingford and Kirk Edwards. They have all-rounders in skipper Darren Sammy and Darren Bravo. The presence of all-rounders should give them some depth to their batting considering the opening batsmen has less experience.
The Test series will be played at Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. After hosting the spectacular Formula One last week, Delhiites are in for another sporting feast and if Sachin manages to score his 100th century at Kotla, it will be an added bonanza for the Capital’s sports enthusiasts. Delhi has been a witness to quite a few important milestones in the past; notably Anil Kumble’s famous 10-wicket haul in an innings and Tendulkar surpassing Sunil Gavaskar’s record of 34 centuries in 2005. Now, the little master requires 35 runs more to be the first person to score 15,000 Test runs. So expect fireworks either way, and knowing Indians, there is no better place in the world than home ground to celebrate milestones.