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India look to hit early cruise control

india Updated: Jun 04, 2011 00:56 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Walking into the ground ahead of the rest of the pack, Duncan Fletcher cast a good, close look at the Queen's Park Oval pitch, bathed in sunshine on Thursday afternoon.

The 62-year-old, who replaced Gary Kirsten as India coach after the World Cup, showed a hint of tentativeness at the venue where the controversial Greg Chappell era had ended when India's World Cup hopes died in the first round in 2007.

Leading a world champion ODI outfit, albeit heavily depleted, Fletcher, known to be a stickler for discipline, did a quick headcount even as his vice-captain Harbhajan Singh, the senior-most in the squad, walked in to join the rest.

After a game of football to kick off the fatigue of the long flight, the coach sat with the players and support staff for a chat, unmindful of the scrutinising eyes beyond the boundary.

The former England coach returns to the West Indies, where he quit after a disappointing 2007 World Cup. The man, who inspired England's rise in Tests, did not really get a grip on the limited-overs game.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/04_05_11-metro-21c.jpg

Right approach
However, he would hope India will be on auto-pilot as they kick off the tour. They miss big names, including skipper MS Dhoni who has opted out until the Test series. India's record in Twenty20 internationals is nothing great and they have lost both their previous ties against the West Indies - at the 2009 and 2010 World T20.

Still, every player has featured in the IPL and will know what is expected of him. Fletcher also spent time with Shikhar Dhawan, who is likely to open with Parthiv Patel. Any meaningful contribution will be appreciated before a solid line-up led by Suresh Raina takes over.

Twenty20 has come a long way from being a glorified exhibition game, and the IPL has fostered strong friendships.

On Thursday, West Indies' Trinidadian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo visited the India nets to greet his Chennai team-mates Raina, R Ashwin and Badrinath before taking Harbhajan to show his gleaming green Jaguar.

The West Indies warmed up with a practice game win over an academy side, but skipper Darren Sammy knows it will be important to win the opening skirmish. With Chris Gayle kept out, and all-rounders Bravo and Pollard coming in only for ODIs, all eyes will be on the hosts.

There were showers on Friday morning and there is forecast for rain on match day, but local officials hope the drainage facilities at the Oval will ensure a full game.