Two major things happen when India take on the West Indies in the first of the four-match Pepsi Cup series starting in Nagpur on Sunday. Sourav Ganguly makes his comeback to one-day cricket and Sachin Tendulkar gets shunted down the order from his preferred opener's slot.
For the rest, this series, created basically so that the BCCI could have more games in India (read money-making opportunity, though it was projected as “vital pre-World Cup practice”), has turned into a lifesaving exercise for India to find their squad ahead of the World Cup.
Ganguly's return to one-day cricket, 500 days after he last turned out against New Zealand in Harare, would definitely be the highlight of a saga that began with his remarkable return to Test cricket in South Africa.
In fact, this game was also supposed to mark the much-awaited return of one-day cricket's most successful opening combine in Tendulkar and Ganguly (5621 runs in 117 games) but at the moment, that is on hold with the new Indian vice-captain being moved down the order.
Gautam Gambhir will open with Ganguly and hope to make a case for himself at the expense of Delhi statemate Virender Sehwag. However, whatever his form, Sehwag will probably figure in the final Cup squad of 15.
According Rahul Dravid, India have been forced to push Tendulkar down to provide stability in the middle overs (15-40), which he says will be critical in the World Cup. He said the management explained the rationale behind the decision to Tendulkar and he agreed to it. The decision has been taken because it is not certain yet whether Yuvraj Singh’s knee injury would heal in time before the World Cup.
Dravid’s lack of form is a worry, though he seemed to be coming back when he broke his finger and missed the last two ODIs in South Africa. When he makes runs, the team does well, but the current lack of form has coincided with everyone else's, leading to major disarray.