The three matches that have been played so far in this four-match series between India and the West Indies have all been dominated by talk of the World Cup, which is barely six weeks away. Wednesday is not expected to be any different.
However, there will be an added incentive for both teams as they prepare for the last match of the series at the IPCL sports complex in Vadodara.
With India leading the series 2-1, the hosts have a great opportunity to seal matters with a win on Wednesday and correct their poor record against the West Indies. The Windies, on the other hand, would be looking to square the series with a win in what will be their last international match before the World Cup.
Despite the importance of the match on Wednesday, the Men in Blue will continue their rotation policy in order to get the best possible combination for the World Cup.
Skipper Rahul Dravid announced during the pre-match press briefing on Tuesday that Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Ramesh Powar and S. Sreesanth would be out of the final 12 for the match.
“We are trying to strike the right balance,” Dravid said. “But winning the series is very important too. Not only will it boost our confidence, but will also improve our recent record against the West Indies.”
As a result, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan, who were not a part of the 12 in Chennai, have been included for the series-decider.
Dravid also made it clear that Ganguly would open the innings with Robin Uthappa, who gave India a flying start in Chennai with a 41-ball 70. The fact that the Indians had come with a clear gameplan for the match reflected in the practice as well as neither Gambhir nor Raina batted at the nets.
Injury problems have marred the West Indies’ preparation after Marlon Samuels — who had steered the Windies to victory in Chennai — had to go for a precautionary X-ray on his left index finger, which he had hurt during that match-winning innings.
All-rounder Dwayne Bravo too has problems with his left shoulder. To add to their worries, coach Bennett King was unable to attend the pre-match practice session with, what their media manager Imran Khan called, a ‘Baroda belly’.
The West Indies captain Brain Lara was, however, upbeat despite the injury problems. “We don’t have 14 fit players, but I’ve been telling the boys that as long as you are 75 per cent fit, try to get out there and win it,” Lara said.
Emphasising the importance of winning the match, Lara said, “This being our last international game before the World Cup, the guys are looking forward to it not just to square the series, but also to get back that psychological advantage that we’ve had over India in the recent past.”
Meanwhile, Monday night’s spell of unseasonal showers at the ground had raised some doubts over the match. However, with the Baroda Cricket Association personnel working relentlessly through the night, and the sun shining bright on Wednesday, all the doubts of a wash-out evaporated.
Email Amol Karhadkar: firstname.lastname@example.org