Tour begins with trouble in paradise
Saturday, June 4, Port of Spain
Start time 1000 (1400 GMT)
It's déjà vu all over again. A little less than a year ago, India began their World Twenty20 campaign in the West Indies just five days after the IPL. Visibly underprepared and disrespectful of international cricket, India were doomed to not go far. Not much has changed on the Indian side of affairs in 2011. Barely six days will have passed since the end of yet another IPL when India kick off their full tour of the West Indies, again with a T20 international. And just like the last time, the hosts will be forced to play at an un-T20 hour of 10 am, sadly to make sure the television viewer in India gets his 7.30 pm start. The people of Trinidad - who might want to catch up on some T20 fun on a Saturday afternoon or evening - be damned.
It serves the broadcasters right then, that India will go through this tour without many of the stars that the Indian TV viewer is believed to never get enough of. West Indies, though, should feel slighted. Virender Sehwag knew he needed a shoulder surgery even before the IPL began. He had a choice to make: he chose the IPL over the West Indies tour. Sachin Tendulkar knew he needed time off cricket: he chose to miss the West Indies Tests but not the IPL.
How the world has changed: there was once a time when players might have wanted to miss a West Indies tour out of fear of their fast bowlers. Now West Indies will feel the duo wouldn't have made similar choices if Tests in England were pitted against the IPL. West Indies will be fuming. West Indies will be inspired. West Indies will want to teach India a lesson. How off the mark can we be? The WICB - rightly or wrongly, who's to say - is not even picking the best-possible side. Chris Gayle remains more active on Twitter than the cricket field. Jerome Taylor, who just played the IPL, is not considered for selection on fitness grounds. There is trouble in paradise, and we can only sit and watch. At 7.30pm, India Standard Time.
Form guide (most recent first)
West Indies WLLLW
First day, first show for Duncan Fletcher comes with a young inexperienced team. India won't look too different once people start retiring after the Australia tour later this year. Fletcher knew he would have to oversee this transition at some time in his tenure. Starting Saturday the new coach gets a sneak-peak into what future holds for him even as India will be interested in seeing what the new coach holds for them.
The two captains are a fascinating study. Under Suresh Raina's previous watch, India finished third in a tri-series involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. He was leading a young team then; this one is not too dissimilar, which means the challenge is just as big.
Darren Sammy, on the other hand, will perhaps never play an international without having to justify his presence. Sometimes he passes in flying colours, as he did in the Test that they won against Pakistan, sometimes he doesn't; at all times he tries gamely, making you wonder what would be if some of the more talented West Indies players played with the same passion and persistence.
West Indies' squad is almost identical to the one that beat Pakistan in the T20 on April 21. The only change is that Kemar Roach has been rested. He didn't play that game anyway. If they keep the winning combination, left-arm medium-pacer Krishmar Santokie will have to wait for his international debut.
West Indies (probable) 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Andre Fletcher (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Danza Hyatt, 6 Darren Sammy (capt), 7 Christopher Barnwell, 8 Andre Russell, 9 Ashley Nurse, 10 Devendra Bishoo, 11 Ravi Rampaul
India's squad is so different from their usual ones, they have no previous to start from. The choices begin at the top, with Shikhar Dhawan and Parthiv Patel favourites as openers. The middle order should be a bit easier to pick, but it will be interesting to see if they go with two spinners and, if they choose to do so, who that second spinner will be. There could be an aversion to playing two offspinners, which is believed to be one of the reasons why R Ashwin lost out to Piyush Chawla in the World Cup squad. Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar will be certainties in the pace attack.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Suresh Raina (capt), 4 Virat Kohli, 5 & 6 two out of S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 R Ashwin/R Vinay Kumar/Amit Mishra/Ishant Sharma
Pitch and conditions
There was heavy rain in Trinidad on the eve of the match, drenching the outfield and bringing the covers on. Scattered thunderstorms have been forecast for the weekend and the following week. If somehow the moisture induces pace and bounce into the pitches, that will be a blessing in disguise.
Stats and trivia
- This is the 200th T20 international. The first was played in February 2005. It took ODIs 12 years to reach No. 200. Incidentally, India and West Indies played the 200th ODI too.
- When India beat West Indies in the 200th ODI, it was a major shock. If they do so in the 200th T20I, it won't be an upset but a minor milestone nonetheless, for India have never beaten West Indies in a T20I, losing at Lord's and Kensington Oval in their two previous clashes.
"We have to continue to put in the hard work. We are a confident group of young men, and we will go into the series with the belief that we can win."
Darren Sammy shows how mundane press conferences can sometimes be
"The West Indies team has been playing good cricket for the past few months, and we are not going to take them lightly."
Suresh Raina outdoes Sammy's "right areas"
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.