Given the background of India's awesome record at home - they have lost only one series in the last 15 years - it would be tempting to shrug off the challenge posed by the West Indies team which commences battle in a three-Test series from Wednesday. But the Indians would do well to guard against complacency. In the past, an overconfident approach has proved costly and one has only to look back at the previous tour by the Caribbean side eight years ago to understand how rash it would be to under-rate any team.

The West Indies had virtually lost their No 1 ranking and the slide was apparent. By the early 90s, the vast majority of the stars of the all-conquering team of the 80s had retired. To compound matters, they were, for various reasons, without several leading players including reigning captain Richie Richardson, fast bowlers Curtly Ambrose and Winston Benjamin and veteran opener Desmond Haynes.

Courtney Walsh
© CricInfo
The side, led by Courtney Walsh, had only one really big name in Brian Lara, who in the first half of 1994 had set the two famous world-record scores of 375 and 501 not out. The captain, of course, was one of the top fast bowlers in the world while Carl Hooper, Phil Simmons and Keith Arthurton were cricketers with some experience. But little was known about the other players in the side and the chances of the tourists doing well were not rated highly. On the other hand much was made of the fact that at home India had registered nine successive victories in the period 1988-1994. The stage thus seemed set for India to register a comfortable win in the three-Test series.

Things seemed to move according to prediction when India won the first Test by 96 runs to make it ten in a row at home. But the winning streak was halted in the next Test in which West Indies earned a honourable draw. And in the final Test, West Indies scored a surprise 243-run victory to level the series against all expectations. An obdurate left-hander named Jimmy Adams amassed 520 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 173.33.

More recently too, the mood was fairly complacent on the eve of the Test series against a seemingly weak England side about a year ago. Ultimately, India had to huff and puff their way to victory in one Test while the two other games were drawn with the visitors emerging with much credit.

It can be debated whether the current West Indian team or the 1978-79 side led by Alvin Kallicharran is the weakest to tour India. The batting looks capable of holding its own and evidence of this was clearly seen in the tour opener at Bangalore. There has to be question marks over the bowling though and it is doubtful whether it has the ammunition to bowl out the fearsome Indian batting line-up twice.

The absence of Lara is a major blow and the West Indian record away from home is admittedly abysmal. That said, it must also be stated that they put up a heart-warming show in winning the series against India in the Caribbean earlier this year. It must not be forgotten that India were the favourites to take the series but Hooper's young and inexperienced side rose to the occasion and with a commendable performance, recovered to win the series.

Granted it was achieved at home where West Indies have almost always been unbeatable, but there was something positive about their showing and while it is too early to speak in terms of a resurgence, they are not a side to be dismissed lightly. Indeed, it is difficult not to agree with Walsh's prediction that one could see a star or two being born during the tour. As they showed in Bangalore, the tourists mean business and are a pretty eager lot. And as the saying goes, enthusiasm is the mother of success.

Of course, it will take a bit effort to emerge successful in both the Tests and one-day internationals against an Indian side that at the moment is bristling with confidence. They are on a high after a string of notable performances, they are playing at home where they enjoy an enviable record and the team for the first two Tests has an unbeatable look about it. But that's just the kind of scenario in which sometimes the favourites can lower their guard and pay the price.

Under Sourav Ganguly, the Indians have developed a ruthless streak and they should maintain this approach. On paper, there is no reason why the Indians should not end up comfortable winners. Man to man, they appear much stronger. But then the Indians looked pretty formidable on the two occasions I have talked about and the result is well known. On the face of things, this would seem to be a gilt-edged opportunity for the hosts to make a clean sweep of the Test series, along the lines of the victories achieved against England in 1993 and Sri Lanka the following season, provided complacency does not enter the Indians' mind set.

Srinath & Ganguly
© CricInfo
The selection of the Indian team for the first two Tests has been made on expected lines, though, I am not really comfortable about Javagal Srinath's decision to come out of retirement and his subsequent recall. The selection of Amit Mishra is a step in the right direction, notwithstanding his figures of no wicket for 114 at Bangalore. A young leg-spinner is a must what with Anil Kumble in rather indifferent form. But then Kumble's record at home is well known and against West Indies, it is likely that he and Harbhajan would be the strike force rather than Srinath and Zaheer Khan.