West Indies look to catch India off guard
Match factsSunday, November 6
Start time 9.30 (0400 GMT)
Big PictureThe last time a team other than South Africa beat India in a Test in India, nobody knew of Twitter outside the office of its founders and Facebook was an invitation-only site meant for university and high-school students to share notes. A bit like the growth of those Internet media, it has become increasingly difficult to beat India in India. In the five years and eight months since that defeat to England in Mumbai, India have lost two out of 22 home Tests, the best record among all teams. It will be a shock this season if any addition is made to their two losses, despite coming off four straight defeats in England.
Then again the number of draws over the same period - nine - is equally instructive. These draws say a bit about the flat pitches, a bit about two badly timed declarations which sat on their lead in two series, and the three times the batsmen dug in in the second innings to save Tests. It also says that while it is difficult to beat India in India, it isn't quite improbable to keep them from winning. It shows in how the host broadcaster is not repeating the advertising stunt from last year, when it labeled the series against New Zealand "Mission Domination".
It says that while absolute domination - the whitewashes - hasn't quite been India's style for whatever reasons, it also means India are less likely to leave the door ajar for West Indies. If you are the underdogs, though, having gone close to four years without an away win against an opposition other than Bangladesh, you want a little complacence from the favourites, a little over-confidence or arrogance. You want them to over-aim, something India don't do.
You want to strike when they are not looking, sometimes even one such session can be enough to win a Test. West Indies will look to keep hanging in, keep taking the blows, and hope for India to look away. West Indies have shown they can be stubborn enough through the two draws against the same opposition in the home series earlier this year. The Indian bowling attack this time is comparatively even less experienced. India managed the lone win on a difficult track. Wonder if the Indian curators watched that?
Form guide(Most recent first)
West Indies WDDDL
Watch out for…India's new bowlers. Ishant Sharma will lead the attack, but there are debuts expected. R Ashwin is all but certain to be the second spinner along with Pragyan Ojha, who himself wasn't among the top two spinners as recently the England tour. One out of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will get a Test cap too. This will be a huge test for these youngsters, especially with this being an audition for the Australia tour.
It is reassuring that the over-my-dead-body Shivnarine Chanderpaul remains relevant to Test cricket. In the last Test he played against India, he thwarted them for eight hours and 21 minutes to save the game. That was after a particularly turbulent period in his career, a period that made him speak more words in public than he had in his international career. He was hurt, he ranted, he came back and showed he still belonged. On this difficult tour, West Indies will need all his experience and stubbornness.
Pitch and conditionsThis is just as big a test for Feroz Shah Kotla. This is only the third first-class match, and the first Test Delhi is hosting after the abandonment of an ODI in 2009-10. The re-laid pitch has been slow, low and lifeless for List A cricket. In one of the two first-class games, it retained its Ranji reputation of early life when Gujarat were bowled out for 71 on the first morning, but neither of the matches produced a result. It is hoped that the new Kotla will break away from the trend, especially considering November mornings are smoggy in Delhi, which could lead to loss of some play.
Team newsOnly two slots seem uncertain for India: No. 6 and the second fast bowler. Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are contenders for the first, and Yadav and Aaron for the latter. Yuvraj is the favourite for the first, both the contenders have laid equal claim to the latter.
India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Yuvraj Singh, 7 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Umesh Yadav/Varun Aaron
The big question for West Indies revolves around Ravi Rampaul, who consistently provided them with early breakthroughs in the home season. He then had to make way for Kemar Roach in Bangladesh. However, they can't afford to play both of them because then he will have to take the place of a specialist batsman, the specialist spinner or the captain. Adrian Barath, fit again, should take his opening slot, which means either Kieran Powell or Kraigg Brathwaite will have to sit out.
West Indies (probable) 1 Adrian Barath, 2 Kieran Powell/Kraigg Brathwaite, 3 Kirk Edwards, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Marlon Samuels, 7 Darren Sammy (capt.), 8 Carlton Baugh (wk), 9 Ravi Rampaul/Kemar Roach, 10 Fidel Edwards, 11 Devendra Bishoo
Stats and trivia
- This is the first time, since November 2000, that India are playing a home Test without both Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.
- This will be West Indies' first Test in India in more than nine years, which means only Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels have played previously in India. Both have a century each. Samuels scored 104 in his only Test in India.
- Sachin Tendulkar, one short of reaching 100 international hundreds, broke the record of most Test centuries at the same venue when he scored his 35th, against Sri Lanka in 2005-06.
Quotes"Over the last six to 12 months our fast bowlers, Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Darren Sammy have done well and won us matches. We know that India obviously will be heavy on spin but we believe in the quality of our fast bowlers."
Ottis Gibson thinks pace is the way to go
"The Australia series is too far away, so no point thinking about it. As far as this series is concerned, the light may be a factor. It may mean we start a bit late and end a little early. Difficult to predict."
MS Dhoni is taking it one game at a time.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo