Big Picture

Thirty six years after India sprung a surprise on West Indies in that final, the two sides meet again with plenty on the line at Old Trafford. Carlos Brathwaite fell inches short on Saturday, but it's not quite the end of the road for West Indies, who have just won one of their six matches and are placed just above South Africa and Afghanistan, who are both out of contention for the semi-finals.

England's back-to-back defeats come as soothing news to West Indies, who can still sneak into the knockouts, provided they win their last three league matches and the stars align for them. Should Jason Holder's men lose tomorrow, though, their dream will be over and India will take a big step closer to the semi-finals.

West Indies will have to do without Andre Russell whose utterly wonky knees have given up. There's also an injury cloud over Evin Lewis, who had hurt his hamstring in the field against New Zealand and later did not open the batting. Instead, he batted at No. 8 and bagged a three-ball duck.

Chris Gayle and Shai Hope have blown hot and cold, compounding West Indies' top-order troubles. They are the only side in the tournament without a fifty opening stand and they have the worst average for the opening partnership (11.2). Sunil Ambris, who has been drafted in as Russell's replacement, could help remedy this and bring some attacking enterprise at the top while Brathwaite seamlessly fits in as a like-for-like replacement for Russell.

West Indies' new-ball bowlers ditched the bang-it-in plan and hit much fuller lengths on Saturday, and Sheldon Cottrell was immediately rewarded with a double-wicket first over. His left-arm angle coupled with an awkward round-arm action could pose a threat to India's batting line-up that still has some cracks in the middle order. Vijay Shankar is still feeling his way into the middle order, and he had his first - and only crack - at No. 4 on Saturday. Kedar Jadhav made a scrappy fifty, but he could not find a gear high enough to hurt Afghanistan.

That brings us to MS Dhoni. As is his wont, he simply blocked the spinners and set up for the late burst. However, it never came and Dhoni fell in the most un-Dhoni fashion: jumping out to slog Rashid Khan against the break in his last over and getting stumped.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar's injury has also messed with India's balance. Mohammed Shami bowled a fiery first spell and later closed out the game against Afghanistan with a hat-trick, but his inclusion has lengthened India's tail. Against West Indies whose batting drips with power and depth, India could consider recalling Ravindra Jadeja in place of one of the wristspinners.

ALSO READ: Aakash Chopra on what India need to do against West Indies' key players

Form guide

India: WWWWL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies: LLLLW

In the spotlight

Manchester is a special place for Vijay Shankar. He's a die-hard fan of Manchester United and he enjoyed a tour of the football's Old Trafford before pinning Imam-ul-Haq lbw with his first World Cup delivery at cricket's Old Trafford, against Pakistan. The batting allrounder had a bright start against Afghanistan, but he threw it away, chancing a sweep just after fine leg had been whisked in. Can he make the No. 4 spot his own upon his return to Manchester?

ALSO READ - Gollapudi: What Vijay Shankar brings at No. 4

Shimron Hetmyer started the tournament quietly and then eased himself into back-to-back fifties against Bangladesh and New Zealand. That Hetmyer is a fine player of spin makes him one of the key figures in the middle order against Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav or Jadeja. Remember his rousing hundred in Guwahati last year, India?

4:42
Ganga wants Bravo, Allen in WI's XI
Ganga wants Bravo, Allen in WI's XI

Team news

India are set to give Vijay another shot at the middle order. But, the big question is will they throw Jadeja into the mix at the expense of a wristspinner? Bhuvneshwar has resumed bowling at the nets, but India are unlikely to risk playing him on Thursday.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (captain), 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Kedar Jadhav, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal/Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

West Indies are likely include Ambris if Lewis is unfit, and Kemar Roach might keep his place ahead of the erratic Shannon Gabriel.

West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis/Sunil Ambris, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Carlos Brathwaite, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas

Pitch and conditions

The Old Trafford track is likely to be flat as usual, and there's no rain forecast for Thursday.

Strategy punt

  • Keep your inswinger ready against Gayle in the Powerplay. The opener has struggled against incoming deliveries in the first ten overs, managing only 19 off 30 such balls while being dismissed twice.
  • Gayle sized up Mitchell Santner's left-arm spin on Saturday, and West Indies have more left-handers in Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Hetmyer, but India could still take a punt on Jadeja for his athleticism in the field and the batting cover he provides. Even if Jadeja, the bowler, is taken to the cleaners, India have an extra bowling option in Vijay.

Stats and trivia

  • Jasprit Bumrah has bowled 15 yorkers in four matches this World Cup. Only Mitchell Starc has bowled more yorkers (16) although he has had the benefit of playing three more games.
  • Gayle is 59 runs away from surpassing Brian Lara as West Indies' top run-getter in ODI cricket
  • Tomorrow's ODI will be Hardik Pandya's 50th. He needs two wickets to reach 50 ODI wickets
  • In ODIs since 2017, at Old Trafford, spinners have managed only 15 wickets in 10 innings as opposed to 56 taken by the seamers.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo