India v West Indies,1st ODI, Cuttack November 28, 2011

Six men for whom this series matters

ESPNcricinfo staff
The series may be low-profile in the absence of a few top names, but the stakes are high for six fringe players

Rohit Sharma

"Rohit Sharma is the best young batting talent in the world. Highly mismanaged by India. He's better than [Virat] Kohli." So tweeted former Pakistan captain and television commentator Ramiz Raja, recently. Rohit's recent form, has been just as eye-catching as Kohli's: he had scores of 68*, 7*, 86*, 39 and 57 in the one-dayers in the West Indies this summer, and on recovering from a finger injury that he picked up in England, he has hit one double-ton and a century in three Ranji matches for Mumbai. A strong showing in this series - provided he steers clear of freak injuries - will be crucial to Rohit's chances of making a long-due Test debut in Australia.

Parthiv Patel

Parthiv has had a decent run as a stand-in opener, with Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir injured or rested at various points of time in the last 12 months. He has often looked the part at the top of the order, stroking a few fine boundaries, before gifting his wicket away. This year he has played 16 ODIs and got past 25 on eight occasions, but has managed only two half-centuries. With Wriddhiman Saha preferred as the back-up keeper in Tests, Parthiv will need a strong showing here to ensure he makes it to Australia for the ODIs. In MS Dhoni's absence, he'll also have the rare chance further his case through glovework.

Sunil Narine

ESPNcricinfo classifies Narine as a right-arm offbreak bowler, but that says less than half the story. Narine spent his formative years playing wind-ball (tennis ball) cricket in Trinidad, picking up a raft of unique variations. His most confounding trick is the "knuckle ball", a variation delivered with a loose wrist, and a corkscrew twist of two fingers that makes it grip, turn away from the right hander, and bounce alarmingly. Narine's mixed bag helped him grab 3 for 8 in four overs of unplayable spin during the Champions League game against Chennai Super Kings. The victims included two of the most punishing players of spin in the Indian side - MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. The latter will be warning his team-mates to watch Narine's fingers closely when he trots in for a bowl. If they don't, Devendra Bishoo may not be the top spinner in the West Indies side by the end of the series.

Andre Russell

The West Indies set-up is dime-a-dozen with seaming allrounders. Darren Sammy is an automatic selection since he leads the side, while Kieron Pollard's reputation as a Twenty20 freelancer precedes his average one-day record. Dwayne Bravo is arguably the most naturally talented of the lot, but is currently out of the mix after a sustained run of poor form and injury. With so many contenders for the few berths in the lower middle order, Russell faces the unenviable task of playing for his spot almost every time he gets a chance. Russell will back himself against the Indian attack, after having collared them in the recent ODI series back home, but his bowling will come under pressure on flat tracks.

Vinay Kumar

The absence of Praveen Kumar to injury means that Vinay will lead the seam attack for the first three ODIs at least. Vinay may be under a bit of pressure to hold his spot, though, given the emergence of Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav in the Test series. Aaron and Yadav make up for their relative inexperience with pace - both are capable of regularly hitting 140 kph. Speed isn't Vinay's calling card, and he had a difficult tour of England despite the seamer-friendly conditions, picking up two wickets in three matches at 6.50 runs per over. However, he improved in the return series in India, including a spell of 4 for 30 in Delhi in conditions that suited him better. Another good series could cement his spot as a first-choice ODI seamer ahead of the Australia tour.

Manoj Tiwary

Manoj Tiwary has featured in India's ODI squad this year, starting with the tour of West Indies, but he's yet to fulfil his potential as a middle-order batsman, with a highest score of 24 in four games. The absence of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh gives Tiwary another opportunity to impress the selectors and earn an edge over the other middle-order contenders. He's been in sparkling form in the Ranji season, with scores of 132 and 267 in back-to-back matches, and will hope to extend that run when he gets a chance against West Indies.