Skipper Brian Lara wants the West Indies to win their last one-dayer ahead of the World Cup when the Caribbean cricketers play India on Wednesday.
West Indies goes into the fourth and final limited-overs international trailing 1-2, but eager to showcase the prowess that has made them one of the fancied teams for the World Cup. West Indies, as World Cup hosts, are hoping to become the first home team to clinch the title since the premier one-day event began in 1975.
Lara's team began the surge in its rankings after defeating India 4-1 in the one-dayers during last year's series in the Caribbean islands. West Indies went on to assert their growing confidence and strength by advancing to the final of the biennial Champions Trophy played in India during October and November.
"Wednesday's match is a nice set up for final game of the series, which is also our last international outing ahead of the World Cup," Lara said.
"We want to win it, not just to square the series, but get a psychological boost," Lara said. "Even though the series is not in our favor at the moment, it has been of utmost importance to us." "We're getting the chance of play against one of the world's top teams in its own backyard. And all matches have been very competitive," he said. "We wish we had more matches ahead of the World Cup."
Bracing for his fifth World Cup appearance, Lara said he was looking at improving the West Indies record of he past two decades. West Indies, winners of the initial two titles, have made the semifinal just once in the past five World Cups.
Lara's four previous appearances have seen the West Indies feature in just one semifinal _ in 1996 _ but he is determined to put that disappointment behind.
"We now have the capability and the ingredients to go far. There's a feeling of great optimism in the team and the players are looking to come good in the World Cup," Lara said. "A lot of people call us unpredictable and some don't give us a chance. But from our form and recent performances means we're game to be among the top four at the World Cup," he said. "At the semifinal stage, there's always a change of scenario and we can go on to win the World Cup," said Lara, 37, who is not expected to be around when the next World Cup is played in the subcontinent in 2011.
Lara said he felt the West Indies had a chance in each of his previous four World Cups, but just managed to play in one semifinal. "I felt we had the team to do well every time, but we did not. In 1996, we came close to winning the semifinal against Australia," said Lara.
"This time, the onus is on all players. All of them have got to take on their share of responsibility," Lara said, imploring his players to stand up and be counted in tight situations. "We're now looking to create more match-winners in our team, for more guys to come to the fore and win matches for West Indies." "We have to clean up a few things in our act, we now have a team that's gelling well," he said.
Injuries to two players are bothering the West Indies ahead of the last one-dayer.
Middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels on Tuesday was taken to the hospital for a scan of his left index finger, where he got hit when batting in the last match Saturday, while all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is grappling with a shoulder injury.
Like West Indies, India had also used this series to try out players for the World Cup and Wednesday's game will allow the home side to see if its ace pacer Irfan Pathan had reclaimed his bowling rhythm.
Pathan was last month sent back from the tour of South Africa to play domestic cricket and smoothen out his bowling action. He has been recalled for this match after missing out of the previous three one-dayers.
"Things are now falling into place. We're now pretty close to where we want to be and comfortable with the options we'll have in the World Cup team," Dravid said.
He said it was heartening to see pace bowler Pathan during Tuesday's workout, and also the recovery made by pacer Munaf Patel from his foot injury.
Patel was summoned by the team management to bowl at the nets. Dravid said he was looking forward to winning the last one-day international and clinch the series 3-1.
"It'll be nice to come out of the field tomorrow with a series victory against the West Indies, who are going to be a very dangerous side in the World Cup," Dravid said.