Virat Kohli-led India look to prove a point vs inconsistent West Indies | india-vs-west-indies-2017 | Hindustan Times
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Virat Kohli-led India look to prove a point vs inconsistent West Indies

Virat Kohli, criticised by former players like Sunil Gavaskar for forcing the exit of Anil Kumble, will have a point to prove when India take on the West Indies in first of the five ODIs at Port of Spain on June 23.

india vs west indies 2017 Updated: Jun 22, 2017 22:26 IST
Khurram Habib
Virat Kohli-led India will be up against the West Indies - who are in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
Virat Kohli-led India will be up against the West Indies - who are in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup.(AP)

Important as this series might be for two-time world champions West Indies for qualification to 2019 World Cup, the main concern for the Trinidadians isn’t cricket just yet even as the series with India begins on Friday.

(Read | Virat Kohli-led India land for ‘second-string’ Caribbean sojourn)

Tropical storm Bret has left such a streak of devastation, wiping out millions of dollars in property in south Trinidad that cricket has been pushed way down the priority and news list.

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy, a St Lucian, who was unceremoniously sacked via a 30-second call in August last year despite being a two-time World T20 champion skipper, however, has his eye on cricket and gives his side little chance of making it to the 2019 edition.

(Read | Virat Kohli-led India look to continue dominant run against West Indies)

They are 16 points adrift of eighth-placed Sri Lanka in the ICC ODI rankings and have time till September 30 to displace them and earn a direct qualification that is given to top eight nations. If they fail, which seems likely even if they do well against India, they’ll be competing with non-Test nations for a spot. Sammy, however, feels they’ll struggle to beat even non-Test nations and make it to World Cup 2019.

(Read | IND vs. WI: Windies’ last realistic chance for direct World Cup qualification)

“Qualifying for the last two spots, that’s not even guaranteed. It is difficult to beat Ireland in their conditions. We just saw Scotland beat Zimbabwe, so all kinds of countries are improving. Just like Bangladesh have improved and gone past us and we saw in the last World Cup where Ireland defeated us as well, so it is a long way to go. I think with the way we structure our cricket, we’re going nowhere,” Sammy told the media.

(Read | Windies board almost messed up Sunil Narine’s career, says coach David Furlonge)

West Indies’ top players haven’t been playing, as rules don’t allow them to feature in the team without playing a required number of domestic games.

However, an India shaken by captain-coach fallout and by a crushing loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final should give them some respite even though there are enough big names in India line-up that can bother the home side that lost to Afghanistan only this month.

(Read | India vs West Indies 2017: A look at the previous 10 ODIs)

The Indians turned up for practice on Thursday afternoon in what was their first one after Anil Kumble’s resignation. They had stayed back at the team hotel on Wednesday. Kumble had in fact taken charge in June last year and the West Indies Test series was his first assignment. India won that handsomely. They’ve been playing non-stop cricket since then and have been largely coasting through.

The series against a depleted West Indies team could be a mismatch but the recent developments will give the home side hope.

(Read | India vs West Indies: Top five Indian players to watch out for)

Former West Indies cricketer Gus Logie, who was part of the glorious side of the 1980s, feels India are outright favourites but the recent happenings give West Indies some hope. “But it could be a double-edged sword. India and Virat Kohli are hurting after that Champions Trophy final loss and they might take the anger out on West Indies just like we did back in 1983 just after the World Cup.”

After losing the 1983 World Cup final to India, the Caribbean side, with Logie part of it, toured India and smashed the daylights out of their opponents.

Skipper Virat Kohli, criticised by former players like Sunil Gavaskar for forcing the exit of Anil Kumble, will have a point to prove. Anything less than a 5-0 win in the ODIs would be considered a setback and set the tongues wagging.