When the first ball of the final match of this four-ODI series is bowled one side will be attempting to answer several questions for itself while the other is in a position where there's little to lose and yet plenty to gain. India are still trying to find their best possible combination for the World Cup while West Indies are just looking for a symbolic win - it would be good to begin their campaign in the big tournament, still some time away, with a win under the belt.
The Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Ground has produced some fiery pitches in the past, with the ball darting about sharply off the seam and a predominantly mediumpace Vadodara attack, whose home ground this is, making life miserable for visitors. This is not going to be one such pitch. Despite the intermittent rain, the pitch appears to be a fairly typical one-day strip, loaded in the favour of the batsmen. If there's more rain about there could well be a case for going into the game with only one spinner.
West Indies have, despite going 1-2 down, enjoyed the chance to give their cricketers a run, and some have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. But, going into the final game, they have injury concerns for two vital players - Dwayne Bravo (left shoulder) and Marlon Samuels (left index finger). Samuels was taken for precautionary x-rays on the eve of the match but a final decision on fitness would only be taken on the morning of the match. For India, the four who missed out straightaway were Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Sreesanth and Ramesh Powar.
Even after having narrowed their pool down to twelve, India have some tricky decisions to make before they decide who will carry drinks. Robin Uthappa and Sourav Ganguly will open, with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid to follow, and Yuvraj Singh, coming back from injury, must play. The fact that India are keen to find out if Irfan Pathan - a key component of bringing flexibility and balance to the side - is back in good enough bowling form, means that Dinesh Karthik might just miss out. If Karthik is benched, then both spinners can play alongside Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan, covering for the eventuality that Pathan's bowling isn't up to scratch yet. It would be hard to drop one of the spinners, for Anil Kumble needs a game or two under his belt before the World Cup.
With India and West Indies having played each other a fair bit in the recent months, there has been incessant chatter about who has the psychological edge at what point and whom the momentum was with. West Indies first had it, winning 4-1 at home, then reinforcing it when India lost to the West Indies in the Champions Trophy in Ahmedabad. Now India are up 2-1. But, the result of this series, coming as it does just before the World Cup, means that there are few brownie points to win one way or the other. The result of what happened at Vadodara on January 31 will be long forgotten if and when the two teams were to clash again in the second half of the World Cup.
India (from) 1 Sourav Ganguly, 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Rahul Dravid (capt), 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 7 Ajit Agarkar, 8 Anil Kumble, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Irfan Pathan, 12 Dinesh Karthik.
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 3 Runako Morton, 4 Brian Lara, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Dwayne Smith, 8 Denesh Ramdin, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Ian Bradshaw, 11 Daren Powell, 12 Rayad Emritt, 13 Devon Smith, 14 Lendl Simmons.