Cricket sideshow takes centrestage
Match factsWednesday-Sunday, November 6-10, 2013
Start time 0900 local (0330GMT)
Big PictureDarren Sammy and his men will take a look at the farewell euphoria in Kolkata and wonder if there's some karmic connection between West Indies and Sachin Tendulkar. 'When will he get his 100th international hundred?' was the refrain the last time West Indies toured India in late 2011. Tendulkar came close twice in that three-Test series, making 76 in a successful chase in Delhi and falling six runs short of the mark to the disappointment of hometown Mumbai.
That Wankhede match was only the second time a Test had been drawn with the scores level, India managing a single off the last ball of the game when two were needed. West Indies may have lost that 2011 series 0-2, but they had a 100-plus first-innings lead in Delhi which they blew, and were a wicket away from a win at the end in Mumbai.
It is important to revisit all this to remind ourselves that two teams played cricket - exciting cricket - then, during that long clamour for the landmark. And, regardless of how or why this series came to be, two teams are going to play cricket now, during the retirement.
West Indies may have one of the worst overseas records over the past decade or so, but they have batsmen such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Darren Bravo who have thrived in Indian conditions in the past. They have bowlers of extreme pace in Kemar Roach and Tino Best. They have capable spinners in Shane Shillingford and Veerasammy Permaul. And they have a captain who is as unassuming as some of the young Indian stars aren't.
MS Dhoni and his men haven't played any Tests since sweeping Australia 4-0 at home in March. They are about to embark on a succession of overseas tours starting with South Africa next month. They have an opener who, for all his world-conquering limited-overs form, is only one Test innings old. The other one hasn't been among the runs recently. Their No. 5 could likely become No. 4 after this series; they have been trying to find No. 6 since the end of 2008. Their fast-bowling unit is so unpredictable they are considering a debutant when they have someone who has played as many as 51 Tests. There is a lot to think about for Dhoni, even against West Indies and even as the goodbye carnival carries on.
Form guideIndia WWWWD (last five games, most recent first)
West Indies WWWWW
In the spotlightIf it hasn't already been, 2013 may yet be declared the year of Shikhar Dhawan, for appearing out of the blue and producing one eye-catching performance after another. Four ODI hundreds to go with that pulverising 187 on Test debut against Australia in Mohali. Nearly eight months have passed since that innings, and Dhawan's form has kept pace in limited-overs formats. What will he have for us in his second Test?
In 2011, Darren Bravo made two big hundreds in Kolkata and Mumbai to tally over 400 runs for the series, by far the best West Indies batsman on that trip. He likes batting on the subcontinent; his other two Test hundreds have been scored in Bangladesh. He can be as soft with his hands in dealing with spin as he can be hard on fast bowlers.
Team newsThe absence of Ravindra Jadeja, who has played all of five Tests, in a home series has disturbed the team combination so much that Rohit Sharma and Amit Mishra are competing for one spot. If Dhoni goes for a fifth bowler, Mishra will play his first Test since August 2011. If Dhoni goes for the sixth batsman, Rohit may edge out Ajinkya Rahane with his part-time offspin. If that happens, he would have played 108 ODIs before finally making his Test debut, easily the record.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 M Vijay, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Rohit Sharma/Ajinkya Rahane/Amit Mishra, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Pragyan Ojha, 11 Umesh Yadav/Ishant Sharma/Mohammed Shami
Even without missing Jadeja, West Indies are facing a similar predicament. In 2011, they played three specialist bowlers - two quicks and one spinner. This time, Sammy says one needs two spinners in India, which could mean a toss-up between Narsingh Deonarine and Veerasammy Permaul.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Narsingh Deonarine/Veerasammy Permaul, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Shane Shillingford, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Tino Best
Pitch and conditionsEden Gardens' chief groundsman, Prabir Mukherjee, has promised "a good, firm, even-bouncing wicket" but a day before the game, Sammy said it already "looks like a fourth-day pitch". While Mukherjee and Dhoni aren't exactly friends, it is Sammy's verdict that may excite the India captain, who has said in the past he wants Indian Test pitches to turn from day one. Peak temperature is expected to hover around 30 C. No rain is expected during the match, but the moisture previous downpours have left behind in the soil may slow down the pitch.
Stats and trivia
- West Indies have won their last six Tests, two each against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and New Zealand
- West Indies last won an away Test against an opposition other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe in 2007. Before that, in 2000
- Sachin Tendulkar is 163 short of 16000 Test runs and five short of 50 Test wickets
Quotes"Last time we were bowling against Sehwag, Gambhir, Laxman, Dravid, Sachin and Dhoni. And we bowled them out three [two] times with four bowlers. We are going to come confident and look to get 20 important wickets."
"First and foremost, we need to focus on cricket and look to win the series. Once we've won the series, we can decide on who to dedicate it to."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo