The West Indies tour of India, which starts in Kochi on Wednesday, will be of a lot of purpose for the India team as it gets its act together for the 2015 World Cup.
The World Cup may still be four months away, but the series is the only one India have to sharpen their skills.
Along with Australia and England, India play a tri-series in Australia before the start of the World Cup in February, but as per ICC rules, teams need to announce their World Cup squads a month before the tournament. The tri-series in Australia starts 29 days before the World Cup, so India will effectively be playing the World Cup with the team that figures in the tri-Series.
India have certain issues that require immediate attention and this series will allow them to experiment, starting with the top order. The opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma may have been separated owing to the latter's injury but after Ajinkya Rahane's impressive show in England as the makeshift opener, the management will need to take a call on the ideal candidate to partner Shikhar. From the players' perspective too, both Rohit and Rahane need clarity on their roles before the World Cup. The rest of the batting will remain largely unaffected with roles assigned.
India's spin attack rests at the moment on Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra and Kuldeep Yadav. With R Ashwin being rested, it means that he is assured of his place, and that leaves at least two of the three spinners vying for a spot. Jadeja lends balance to the team with his batting, which practically gives him immunity from elimination. Kuldeep's inclusion is an experiment and his performance in the series will be of immense interest to the selectors.
The key point that confronts the team is the need to identify the strike bowler. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has evolved in the one-dayers but while his opening spell is a clincher, the same can't be said about his later spells.
Mohammed Shami's blow-hot-blow-cold performance continues to give the captain jitters whereas Mohit Sharma's early strikes are hardly repeated in the death overs. Despite his ability to strike at the right time, Umesh Yadav has lacked consistency. In fact, striking at the death is something MS Dhoni is yet to figure out.
Even though India will be looking inwards to get combinations right, they will undoubtedly be the dominant force for a host on factors - supreme confidence, local knowledge and a weakened opposition in view of Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine's absence.