It's been a year of contrasting fortunes for the two teams in the ODI format, and they have much to make up for in tomorrow's contest in St Lucia. India have had a successful 2009 in the 50-over game, with series wins in New Zealand and Sri Lanka. An unassailable lead with a win in St Lucia will boost their chances of wrapping another series away from home, making amends for their debacle in the World Twenty20 and ending their hectic few weeks ahead of a two-month break on a high. West Indies have been disappointing this year, winning four ODIs and losing eight, but have the momentum going into a crunch game with a comprehensive win in Kingston to level the series. However, they are under as much pressure to perform at home. A 2-1 lead, and more so a series win, will do a lot towards easing that burden and leaving them a confident outfit as they take on Bangladesh in their next series.
The home team's performance in the second ODI marked a major improvement, particularly in its bowling. West Indies found a gem in Ravi Rampaul, who swung the ball both ways, inducing the batsmen to make mistakes, while Jerome Taylor was the pick of the West Indies bowlers. He claimed the wickets of Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, each of whom had a role to play in smashing 339 in the series opener. Though they didn't have a big score to chase, the West Indies batsmen ensured their team outclassed India in every field, with Chris Gayle and Runako Morton deciding the game even before a wicket fell with a century opening stand.
India's bowlers were indisciplined in the first game, bowling 19 wides and two front-foot no-balls, and the trait seemed to have rubbed off on their batsmen. Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj, each got out chasing wide deliveries, while the tail, with the exception of RP Singh, who added 101 with Dhoni to save India's blushes, was hapless. Dhoni, at the end of the game, pointed out that over-reliance on Yuvraj, who has scores of 131 and 35 in the series, was not going to win India the series. And with an important game coming up, India's top order will have to step up, with greater preparedness to counter the short ball.
ODI form guide
(last five matches, most recent first)
India - LWLWW West Indies - WLLLN
Watch out for ...
Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma: With an average of 25.33 in 39 ODIs, there is plenty of room for improvement for Rohit in the ODI format. Another failure at No.3 tomorrow is something he can ill afford after scores of 4 and 0 in the series so far. Gambhir has had a satisfactory year, averaging 38.80, but his weakness against the short ball was exposed in the ICC World Twenty20, and in the first game by Jerome Taylor. The pair will do well to deliver when it matters tomorrow to boost India's chances of a series win.
West Indies' pace attack: Each of West Indies' pace bowlers bagged wickets in the eight-wicket rout in Kingston, using swing and variations to unsettle the Indian batsmen. Taylor was the best among them, Rampaul was the surprise package and Bravo bowled a scorcher to get rid of Yusuf Pathan. They made the best use of favourable conditions while India were batting, and if they are offered anything similar at the Beausejour Cricket Ground, India's batsmen are up for another serious challenge.
Ravindra Jadeja had an impressive ODI debut, making an unbeaten 60 against Sri Lanka but has failed in this series, getting dismissed in an identical manner on both occasions. He was out first ball in the first game, playing away from his body and edging to the keeper, and managed just 7 in the second with his team in trouble. He could be left out of the next game for allrounder Abhishek Nayar to make his international debut.
India (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Dinesh Karthik, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Ravindra Jadeja/ Abhishek Nayar, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 RP Singh, 11 Ashish Nehra.
West Indies retained their squad for the final two one-dayers and are likely to go ahead with a winning combination.
West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Runako Morton, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Darren Bravo, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Jerome Taylor, 9 David Bernard, 10 Suleiman Benn, 11 Ravi Rampaul.
Pitch and conditions
Gayle expects the pitch to be full of runs as the venue has traditionally helped the batsmen.
West Indies' eight-wicket victory in Kingston was their biggest against India in terms of balls remaining after winning. They won with 95 balls to spare, bettering their effort in Port of Spain 20 years earlier, where they had won with 68 balls left.
MS Dhoni and RP Singh's stand of 101 is the fourth-highest for the ninth wicket in ODIs, and the third-highest for India.
The average score while batting first in St Lucia is 243. The side batting first has won on seven occasions and lost nine. The highest score at the venue is 363, by New Zealand against Canada in the 2007 World Cup. The lowest is 146, by West Indies against England earlier this year.
"It is a case of two good teams playing against each other, and we expect two very competitive matches." Denesh Ramdin
"Yuvraj, on any given day, can destroy any bowling attack. When he is in that sort of mood (as he was in the first ODI) he is very difficult to bowl to. We have to try and contain him as much as possible but at the same time he's experienced and has a lot of power and he is definitely the main batter in this Indian team." Chris Gayle
"We have good communication out there which is very good and we can assess the conditions as quickly as possible and make the necessary adjustments. I want him to play his game and I will support him at the other end." Chris Gayle on Runako Morton