After an ordinary start to their season, the Indians couldn't have asked for a better opposition to get their confidence back. Despite a brief stutter during the run-chase, the result was never in doubt from the moment West Indies lost those customary early wickets at the start of their innings. What's more, India took home a bonus point as well to indicate that they're back in business, but Greg Chappell will probably be the first to admit that there is still plenty of room for improvement, and higher gears to be reached if the team is to challenge and beat Sri Lanka.
India's new-ball bowlers - and indeed fast bowlers the world over - will want to take this West Indian top order with them for every game. Against batsmen so obviously out of their depth, there was little pressure on Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. The batsmen were intent on defence, the opportunity for wickets were aplenty, and the margin for error was huge. All three seamers returned impressive figures, but a truer examination of their skill and temperament will come against Marvan Atapattu and Co. And when the Indians batted, West Indies duly obliged with sloppy catching and bowling, conceding 18 wides and spilling three catches. It's unlikely Sri Lanka will be quite as generous.
India's batting had struggled throughout last season, and the evidence presented so far this season would have given little comfort for captain and coach: Virender Sehwag's ODI slump continued (73 runs in his last six matches), Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh let go of yet another opportunity, and it needed the steadying hand Rahul Dravid to guide them home. A familiar story, repeated all over again. The one difference, on this occasion, was that Dravid was leading the team. Questions have been raised about his ability to handle the burdens of captaincy and score runs, but on the evidence so far, those fears are quite unfounded. (Click here for Dravid's ODIs performances as captain.)
Chappell had stressed on the need for flexibility in this tournament, and that mindset was reflected in India's batting order, with Kaif and Suresh Raina moving up the order. Easily the more disappointing of the two performances was Kaif's: he struggled against the pace and bounce that the West Indian fast bowlers whipped up, and hardly inspired confidence to suggest that he could consistently score at the top of the order. After a nervy start, Raina played some handsome strokes on both sides of the wicket to indicate that he deserves a few more chances, but a definite verdict on him must wait till he is tested in sterner conditions against better bowling attacks.
If India showed flexibility in reordering their batting line-up, then they showed none in selecting their team for the match. Against the inexperienced West Indian batting line-up, Anil Kumble could have been an irrepressible force. Repeatedly, the batsmen plonked their front foot across the stumps; Kumble, with his ability to spear them in at the stumps, would have been the perfect bowler to exploit that weakness. Moreover, a strong performance here would have been the ideal confidence booster for him ahead of the more crucial matches later in the tournament. By keeping him out in the cold, the Indian think-tank missed a trick which they might well rue towards the business end of the competition.
West Indies gleaned little from this performance that they didn't already know - the fast-bowling has huge potential, but the top-order batting isn't good enough for grade cricket. Shivnarine Chanderpaul's steadfast refusal to move himself up the batting order remains baffling: a 30-for-3 situation seems almost guaranteed with him batting at No. 5. The obvious solution is to move up to open the innings or, at worst, come in at No. 3 and play the steadying hand. The only batting stand-by available is Ryan Ramdass, and surely he must play the next match. West Indies have now lost ten one-day internationals in a row, and all pointers suggest that number will be 13 by the time this tournament is done.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo