Battered India face uphill task
Match factsFriday, July 5
Start time 0930 (1330 GMT)
India arrived in the West Indies with their confidence rocketing sky-high but in just over a week, the engines have come off. The two losses in Kingston mean they now find themselves in a position where even two wins won't be enough to guarantee their progression. Both Sri Lanka and West Indies have the cushion of a bonus point and India will need to find at least one to improve their position. A loss won't totally obliterate India's chances either but will leave them hoping for the remaining results to work in their favour. West Indies, on the other hand, are sitting comfortably with nine points from two games and a win will confirm them as one of the finalists.
India were rightly being showered with a lot of praise after their success in the Champions Trophy which was built on the energy the young shoulders brought. Since then, the players, as well as the captain, have proudly talked about them being the No. 1 side in the ODIs in a manner reminiscent of India's Test team a couple of years back. But there are lessons to be learnt from the nosedive India took in Tests after that.
Top sides are not dependent on a couple of players to pull them through every tricky situation. Top sides have attacks that are not neutralised by conditions. Top sides do not let everything through in the field all day after proclaiming themselves as the best fielding unit. Till India can bring the consistency to deliver in a variety of conditions, their hold on that No. 1 ODI ranking will remain slippery. One thing in their favour, however, is that they have a young team which has shown the right facets to be successful in the longer term.
India's free-flowing batsmen found the going tough on the slowish pitches at Sabina Park and with the conditions not likely to be too different in Port-of-Spain, the lesson for them is that once you are in, make it count. Chris Gayle did that in the first match, then Johnson Charles followed that route in the second and in the third, Mahela Jayawardene and Upul Tharanga proved how effective it can be. Rohit Sharma did the tough part in the first match before taking a wrong turn when the freeway beckoned.
India's bowling remains a bigger worry and it remains to be seen how they regroup after the battering they received in the previous match. Shami Ahmed lacked rhythm and at times, his run-up reminded of Munaf Patel's slow amble to the crease. Despite him being as guilty of leaking runs as anyone else, he could be the first head to roll, and the onus could be back on Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bring the bowling unit's confidence back.
West Indies' bowling has thrived in home conditions. Their fast bowlers were the only ones who managed to make use of the moisture in the Sabina Park pitch and their medium-pacers and spinners have been tough to score off. With their long batting order in good nick, they are finally showing signs of extending their Twenty20 form to ODIs.
Form guideWest Indies WWTLW (most recent first, last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
His claim to fame maybe T20s, but after six years and 80 matches, you would expect Kieron Pollard to crack the ODI code. But he hasn't. His average throughout his career has stayed below 30 and his underachievement in the format can be likened to how West Indies themselves have fared in ODIs - replete with talent, but nothing to show for it. Pollard has been generally found out by quality quick bowlers around the world, but in this series, he has two of the slower attacks in cricket, and in India, one of the weakest too. After scoring 0 and 4 in the series, it is high time he takes the advantage.
In a line-up full of generous bowlers, R Ashwin boasts of an economy of less than five but for a lead spinner, he doesn't buy his captain many wickets. After 55 ODIs, his best is 3 for 24. His numbers suffer further when he bowls outside the subcontinent. Two days ago, when Ashwin was introduced to rein in the Sri Lanka openers, he had no answer. India's weakness in pace is well-known, but it's the ineffectiveness of their spinners in this series that is worrying.
West Indies made one change to their squad for the Trinidad matches, bringing in fast bowler Jason Holder in place of the injured Ravi Rampaul, but they are likely to keep their pace combination of Kemar Roach and Tino Best to hustle the India batsmen. Dwayne Bravo, who was rested in the previous match as a precautionary measure following a groin strain, will return to lead the side at his home ground.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Tino Best
India felt Bhuvneshwar Kumar's absence in their previous game as the first wicket that usually comes early took 39 overs to come. He could replace Shami Ahmed in the XI.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 M Vijay, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
Stats and trivia
- West Indies' win-loss record against India at Queen's Park Oval stands at 7-4
- In this series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the most economical of India's frontline bowlers. He is No. 15 on the list
- Chris Gayle has four centuries against India, his most against any country
"The wicket last time was really slow and I just had a look, it has a bit of grass this time around, but it seems to be the same as the last time. I don't think there is much of an adjustment needed as far as the conditions are concerned."
Virat Kohli on what the Queen's Park Oval might have in store
"It's like a dream come true for me. It's always good to play in the Oval. But to be the captain of the West Indies team is something special."
Dwayne Bravo on leading West Indies for the first time at his home ground
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo