Weakened India still tough to beat
Tuesday, November 29
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)
India's previous home one-dayer took place in front of a sparse crowd at the Eden Gardens, reinforcing fears over the quantity of cricket being played, but with Tuesday's match taking place at the smaller cricketing centre of Cuttack, a jam-packed stadium is expected. Even though the the biggest crowd-pullers like MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar are missing, tickets sales at the Barabati Stadium have been brisk, and even the practice sessions drew plenty of spectators.
A full-strength India would be expected to roll over West Indies at home, but they are missing at least four of their headliners. In addition, they have lost the most experienced bowler in their squad, Praveen Kumar - he was ruled out of the first three one-dayers with an injury. That means the most seasoned of the quicks is Vinay Kumar, all of 11 one-dayers old, giving the stand-in captain Virender Sehwag something of a challenge.
India are also missing two of their finishers, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, giving the likes of Rohit Sharma an audition for a permanent place in the hugely competitive middle order.
Despite India facing these hurdles, Darren Sammy has no illusions of the task ahead of his team, calling the series a "very, very tough challenge". Australia are the only team to have won a one-day series in India since April 2005. West Indies are boosted by the arrival of Kieron Pollard, an impact player who can quickly transform matches, and Lendl Simmons, their most consistent one-day batsman of the year. Sunil Narine, the unconventional Trinidad & Tobago offspinner whose variations mystified batsmen in the Champions League T20, could also pose problems in his first outing in international cricket.
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Kieron Pollard has long had an uneasy relationship with the West Indies board, and despite his superstar status in the Twenty20 format, West Indies don't consider him for selection. That leaves the one-day format as his only platform for international cricket. And, worryingly for him, if there's one thing West Indies cricket have in abundance, it's medium-pace bowling, big-hitting allrounders. Darren Sammy is, obviously, an automatic pick, Andre Russell has displayed his talent this year, and Dwayne Bravo could also be a contender as and when fit.
Ravindra Jadeja was a deeply unpopular figure towards the end of 2010, but has won over some of the critics with his performances in the home-and-away series against England. Two Man of the Match awards and a bagful of wickets have secured his place in the XI for the current series, but he needs to extend that run. If Yuvraj Singh returns for the Australia tour, India could be tempted to go back to their World Cup-winning formula of seven-batsmen and four-bowlers, which could squeeze Jadeja out of the XI.
Pitch and conditions
The last time these two teams faced off at the Barabati Stadium was nearly five years ago, when India managed to defend 189. This time, though, it is expected to be a high-scoring match, as most ODIs in India usually are. "There will be plenty of runs for the batsmen," the curator Pankaj Patnaik said. "I am not ruling out a total of 300. Bowlers will get good bounce and there will be a little turn for spinners." Dew is expected to play a role, though a chemical spray will be regularly used to reduce its impact.
The absence of Dhoni means Parthiv Patel will have to be picked, dimming the chances of Ajinkya Rahane getting a game early in the series. Rohit Sharma, returning after a finger injury sidelined him during the England tour, is likely to get the nod ahead of Manoj Tiwary for a place in the middle order. The injury to Praveen could allow India play both their rookie quick bowlers, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.
India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Vinay Kumar, 10 Varun Aaron , 11 Umesh Yadav
West Indies (probable) 1 Adrian Barath, 2 Lendl Simmons, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Sunil Narine
Stats and trivia
- India have won their previous nine one-dayers at home. Their last defeat was against South Africa in the league phase of the World Cup.
- West Indies are tied with Australia as the team with the most ODI wins over India in India.
- Lendl Simmons has one hundred and seven half-centuries in 12 one-day innings in 2011.
"Fitness-wise, we are stronger as a team. The batsmen are showing signs that they can bat for long periods. Most of all, we are showing a fighting spirit."
Darren Sammy is happy with both the spirit showed by the team, and their ability to get through five Tests in five weeks without any major fitness-related issues
"They are very good bowlers, youngsters who need to learn a lot. They are on the right track, and with coach Eric Simons they are doing a great job."
Virender Sehwag isn't too concerned about the green attack he has at his disposal
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo