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Virat Kohli-led India land for ‘second-string’ Caribbean sojourn

A strong India side led by Virat Kohli will look to bounce back from their ICC Champions Trophy finals loss to Pakistan when they take on the West Indies in five ODIs and a solitary T20 from June 23.

india vs west indies 2017 Updated: Jun 21, 2017 23:38 IST
Khurram Habib
After the loss in the final of the Champions Trophy 2017 to Pakistan, Virat Kohli’s Indian side embark on a five ODI and a one-off T20I tour to the West Indies which begins June 23.
After the loss in the final of the Champions Trophy 2017 to Pakistan, Virat Kohli’s Indian side embark on a five ODI and a one-off T20I tour to the West Indies which begins June 23. (Twitter )

While the Indian team arrived here as a fractured and harried lot, thanks to both Anil Kumble’s sudden resignation and India’s thrashing at the hands of Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final overshadowing an extremely successful season, the hosts too are living on the edge.

(Read | India’s tour of West Indies 2017: Know the venues)

On Tuesday, the whole of Port-of-Spain (POS) was drenched in rain with a fierce storm hitting the Capital city of Trinidad and Tobago. POS will host the first two ODIs in a hastily-organised series that was being seen as giving a lifeline to cricket in the Caribbean which has suffered not just due to poor performances of its team -- most recently a loss to Afghanistan -- but also the tussle between the players and the board that saw the team pull out of a tour of India in 2014.

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

That pullout led to huge financial losses and subsequently the boards are doing their best to minimize the impact of that. But such a series especially at the end of a long and tiring summer for India is being seen as meaningless, especially with this being the rainy season.

Normally in such a series, the Indian board would have sent a second string side or a largely main side but with someone other than Virat Kohli. It has happened before on tours of Zimbabwe and once recently to West Indies.

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

But big names and big faces is what attracts crowds, keep sponsors smiling and Cricket West Indies is already offering discounts in ticket prices and offer on purchases just to boost the sales.

“Indians, especially Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, have a large following here,” says Gus Logie, former West Indies cricketer and now a coach. “Their presence will guarantee some crowd presence.”

However, the larger worry is if weather will allow a full game. As of now, rain is expected to play spoilsport.

Concerns facing India aren’t as grave as those facing West Indies. Their top players are not playing due to differences with the board and the current lot lies 16 points adrift of No 8 Sri Lanka in ICC ODI rankings, making it tough for them to qualify as direct entrants (among the top eight) for the 2019 World Cup.

(Read | Mithali Raj sets semis target for Team India in ICC Women’s World Cup 2017)

They stooped to a new low, losing to Afghanistan in an ODI this month. The disappointment was palpable as far as New York on the check-in counter of a Caribbean Airliner at JFK Airport. The lady at the desk was letting it fly, “I don’t want to watch them. I’ll watch Pakistan, India or even England, but not them. Afghanistan! Man, they lost to Afghanistan!!! They just began playin’!!!”

Fans here, young and old, men and women, take huge pride in West Indies cricket’s glorious past. However, those days seem to be long gone.

In the lead-up to this ODI series, a match was organised between West Indies and a Trinidad and Tobago team a couple of days back. However, the game had to be called off because the venue was not of sufficient standard and there seemed to have been some miscommunication on it among the stakeholders. Imagine Cricket West Indies messing up on a warmup to lift the sagging morale of the side immediately after loss to Afghanistan.