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Off to extend their sway

With many regulars unavailable due to fitness or personal reasons, Suresh Raina leaves for the West Indies as the man in charge of a depleted India team in the wee hours of Wednesday. Amol Karhadkar reports. Permutation & combination

cricket Updated: Jun 03, 2011 15:57 IST
Amol Karhadkar

With many regulars unavailable due to fitness or personal reasons, Suresh Raina leaves for the West Indies as the man in charge of a depleted India team in the wee hours of Wednesday.

If you think the series will be nothing but another captaincy experience for Raina and an opportunity to get a first-hand experience of India's bench strength for new coach Duncan Fletcher, think again.

If the Men in Blue end up losing the ODI series, they will lose grip of their second position in the International Cricket Council's ODI rankings.

That means that the Indians, who return to international action after being crowned world champions on April 2, can't afford to concede a series that could well be billed as a tussle between two mediocre sides.

No wonder then that Fletcher, who has replaced Gary Kirsten on the recommendation of the outgoing coach, was not taking the series lightly.

"This is a young group and it is a pleasure to blood them in one-dayers, rather than in Test matches," said the former Zimbabwe captain, hours before the team's departure for the Caribbean.

"I was amazed at the amount of talent around here. We are working towards winning against the West Indies. India has a plan to stay on top and this series will show the depth of cricket talent here."

This means Raina will have to pull up his socks after a forgettable captaincy debut last June, when he led a second-string side to a tri-series in Zimbabwe. India won just one of the four league matches and failed to reach the final.

Ready for the job
The left-handed batsman, however, sounded upbeat about his duties, with the willow and as the leader. "I learnt a lot under Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni and they played with a lot of honesty," an upbeat Raina said.

"I am really happy that players who have done well in first-class cricket and the IPL have been given a chance by the selectors."

A young bunch to take care of first-up in his first assignment as coach of the world's most high-profile cricket team, is as much an opportunity as a headache for Fletcher.

The newly appointed man looked like seeing the glass as half full than half empty, backing the ploy to rest seniors.

"I started with that in England and was heavily criticised (for resting the seniors). With the schedule we have, it is important to look into it," Fletcher said.

Permutation & combination