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Perfect challenge for future champs

As India went about completing their convincing Twenty20 international victory against the West Indies, what stood out was the clarity of thought. N Ananthanarayanan reports.

cricket Updated: Jun 12, 2011 20:12 IST
N Ananthanarayanan

As India went about completing their convincing Twenty20 international victory against the West Indies, what stood out was the clarity of thought.

Whether it was the bowling changes, switching field positions or picking the right bowling tactics, what stood out was the quality that has led to India's rise in the last few years.

As they kick off their first ODI campaign as World Cup winners, the focus will be on approach rather than the personnel. As many as five of the top-six batsmen — Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni — from the XI that defeated Sri Lanka in the final on April 2 will not play in the five-match series.

Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan has also been rested. But ‘depleted’ is a word that is of little consequence, and if India get off to a strong start, it will be banished altogether.

India’s win in the shortest format has left the West Indies, who lost the previous home series to Pakistan 2-3, worried about the visitors' batting depth and formidable spin attack.

Given the way the Queen’s Park Oval pitch played in the T20 game, it should be advantage India. S Badrinath, man-of-the-match, said the pitch was good for batting once the dampness dried out. Home skipper Darren Sammy bemoaned the fact that the slow pitches have tended to help visiting sides, with the Pakistan spinners cashing in before India landed.

The weather will be the biggest threat with heavy rain forecast through the week, at the start of the Caribbean rainy season. On Saturday, heavy downpour washed out a T20 game between two domestic sides after India had wrapped up the match.

All-rounders Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and experienced batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan return to strengthen the ODI squad but Sammy wants his batsmen to tackle spin confidently. “It is about showing belief in yourself, using the sweep, moving the feet, do whatever to rotate the strike,” he told reporters, while talking about the role of Desmond Haynes, the batting consultant.

Badrinath was confident the young side would make the quick switch after a long season of T20 games. “The overs are different, which means you can afford to take lesser risks,” he said.