Windies bank on pace battery

The hosts will try to expose chinks in Indian batting on a grassy wicket today.

india Updated: May 18, 2006 20:27 IST

A battle between India's batsmen and West Indian fast bowlers is on the cards with skipper Brian Lara all set to curb the visitors' strong batting line-up on a greentop in the first cricket one-dayer on Thursday.

Lara will take a gamble on his quick men and hope the grass on the pitch at Sabina Park is retained to expose the only perceptible weakness in the visitors' line-up.

India have won 18 of their last 23 one-day internationals and at full strength, they only came a cropper when South Africans twice caught them hopping on lively wickets in India.

The impression was also reinforced in the Karachi Test and again on a slightly bouncy track in Mumbai -- on both occasions India finished on the losing side.

Both Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh are still seen as batsmen who are not entirely comfortable against rising, quick deliveries and the jury is still out on young talents such as Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as far as this aspect of their games is concerned.

Lara is well aware that low scores in one-day cricket consistently occur when wickets are falling regularly. And he feels he has the firepower in his quick bowlers to make that happen.

Fidel Edwards is the young quick gun of the West Indies team. He bowls regularly upwards of 90 mph and has good back up in the form of Jerome Taylor and Corey Collymore.

The likes of Dwayne Bravo and Dwayne Smith are also not the ones to be trifled with.

But West Indies, in choosing the slippery path, would of course expose their own men to the Indian fast bowlers.

The hosts crossed 300 only once against Zimbabwe and it has not escaped the India's notice.

Indeed, West Indies need drastic measures if they are to avoid another whitewash like they suffered against South Africa and Pakistan two seasons ago.

The Indians have had an injury scare even before the first ball was bowled on the tour with paceman S Sreesanth being rendered as a doubtful starter and Ramesh Powar ruled out of the first two one-day internationals because of a twisted ankle.

The Caribbeans thus could catch India offguard, if they play to their strength and make the most of the depleted Indian ranks.

Indian captain Rahul Dravid, perhaps realising this, chose to open in the practice game yesterday and might do likewise in the first one-dayer to blunt the Windies attack.

The match was a good opportunity for marginal men such as Mohammad Kaif and Ajit Agarkar to underline their utility.

West Indies have pretty much worked out their options. They tried 17 players in the Zimbabwe series and made at least three changes in every match.

There were three different pairs of opening batsmen and four sets of new-ball bowlers. But Lara is certain it has helped the team to sort itself out.

In batting, Chris Gayle and Renuko Morton appear to be the openers and the middle order is well taken care of by Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Lara himself.

Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo serve as all-rounders and Calrton Baugh Jr, the wicketkeeper, is one mighty striker of the ball.

But lest one gets the impression that the Indians are streets ahead of the West Indies in the one-day arena, it must be remembered that in fielding at least, the hosts are a notch above the visitors.

However, India are in red hot form and it would take some effort from the opposition to stop them in their tracks.


India: Rahul Dravid (capt), Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Venugopala Rao, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel and Robin Uthappa

West Indies: Brian Lara (capt), Chris Gayle, Runako Morton, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Carlton Baugh (wk), Corey Collymore, Fidel Edwards, Jerome Taylor, Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Dave Mohammad.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan)

Match Referee: Chris Broad (Eng).

Hours of play (IST): 8 pm to 11.30 pm, 1210 am till close of play.

First Published: May 18, 2006 17:19 IST