October 8, 2014
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
Once was West Indies. Countries wanted to host them every year, much to their own batsmen’s chagrin. Almost every batsman in the 1980s went through hell more often than he wanted to because West Indies were the box-office. Everybody wanted to watch them. Money, attention, competition, they took it wherever they went.
This India tour of theirs is now the third in the last four seasons. The hosts would have killed for this schedule in the 1980s. Now it’s just a yawn. There is no build-up or anticipation to the tour whatsoever. The Champions League Twenty20 drew more selling effort from the stakeholders. It’s not all down to the opposition but West Indies have contributed to this indifference. The last time they were here they lost two Tests in little over five days. Some of their big stars looked the least interested in playing international cricket and it was ugly watching them play without any application.
This tour starts with a format they like a little more than the Tests. Five ODIs are their first call of duty, but they have already lost two practice matches to an India A team. Two of their big stars – Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine – are missing but three others were away playing Champions League so that should give them hope. Dwayne Smith, captain Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell can be explosive, but they are up against what is recognised as the best ODI team by the ICC, in its home conditions, with its spinners and ODI batsmen on a high after thumping England in England.
This will be a big test of West Indies’ batsmen, especially in the middle overs, when the India spinners will apply the chokehold. That is where England struggled against India. That is also where West Indies are likely to struggle. Even if they can manage to not lose wickets to and keep scoring at a fair pace against spinners, they will merely bring the matches to even terms.
India LWWWW (Completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WWWLL
Watch out for
Ajinkya Rahane finally managed to score his first ODI century when he helped India win the series in England. It was his first break from good-looking but middling innings in the 50-over format, and it came at the top of the order, thanks to the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma. Rohit is going to miss this series too, which gives Rahane another shot at opening the innings. This will be the last ODI series India play before they go to Australia for a triangular series and the World Cup. The opening combination is one issue they will want to resolve by the end of this series.
One of the ways West Indies can get the better of India is early wickets. In Ravi Rampaul they have one man who has done that before. His average of 23 and strike rate of 24.6 against India are a significant improvement on his career stats. This being the start of a new season, West Indies will hope Rampaul is fit and ready to go.
India have rested R Ashwin and brought Kuldeep Yadav into the squad. Either Kuldeep or Amit Mishra should replace Ashwin in the XI.
India (likely): 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Amit Mishra/Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami
West Indies have recalled Marlon Samuels, and it will be interesting to see if they can make space for him in the XI. Both Leon Johnson and Jermaine Blackwood have struggled in the tour games so it might make sense to slot Dwayne Smith in for Chris Gayle. Sulieman Benn should come in for Sunil Narine.
West Indies (likely): 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 D Ramdin (wk), 5 and 6 Two out of Marlon Samuels/ Kieron Pollard/ Darren Sammy, 7 Dwayne Bravo (capt.), 8 Jason Holder, 9 Sulieman Benn, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Kemar Roach
Pitch and weather
The last international Kochi hosted was between the same two teams, and back then West Indies folded against spin. The forecast, though, is not great, with scattered thunderstoms and a 50% chance of rain.
Stats and trivia
West Indies are one of the three teams that have won more ODIs than they have lost against India in India. Their 20-17 ascendance in bilateral series, however, could be under fire.
Indian spinners have taken 72 wickets against West Indies in the last five years. Over the same period West Indies have not lost even 50 wickets to spinners from any other team. Among teams that have played at least 10 matches against West Indies in this period, only Pakistan’s spinners have a better average (23.53) and economy rate (3.66) against them than India’s 28.23 and 4.48.
“We were positive even without him that we can play well against India and beat India. That’s the attitude we have got to adapt.”
West Indies team manager Richie Richardson is confident his side can cope with the absence of Sunil Narine