ndia and West Indies go into this Pool B match of the World Cup in Perth, Australia, having had very contrasting campaigns up until now. While India have an unblemished record so far after having brushed aside Pakistan, South Africa and United Arab Emirates (UAE) with minimal effort, West Indies have been a mixed bag. They lost to Ireland in their opening encounter before coming back strongly against Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Soon, though, they were brought back to earth by the South Africans, with AB de Villiers & co. smashing them for a colossal score of 408 and then skittling them out for 151.
With the battle for the 3rd and 4th spots in Pool B being a closely contested one between West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland, the men from the Caribbean will be extremely keen to win on Friday and secure qualification for the latter stages.
Here are 5 things to look forward to from the India-West Indies game:
#1 Gayle Storm
Even though Chris Gayle scored 215 against Zimbabwe, becoming the first man to score a double century in World Cup history, he hasn’t been at his absolute best in this World Cup. After all, he scored a total of just 41 runs at a strike rate of around 60 in the four preceding games (including the warm ups) before that record score. Even in that Zimbabwe game, he was extremely fortunate to have not been given out lbw on the score of 0, and was out for 3 against the Proteas in the game after.
However, Gayle has time and again showed the ability to do the extraordinary, and if he can survive the opening burst from the Indian bowlers on what should be a testing Perth wicket, we might just be in store for another ‘Gayle Storm’.
#2 Low-scoring encounter
The WACA at Perth is probably the most bowler-friendly ground in Australia in this World Cup, increasing the possibility of witnessing a low-scoring encounter especially with both sets of bowlers being in impressive form. In the inaugural match at Perth of this edition, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) never got going and while they are not an accurate benchmark for the upcoming clash, there are indications of the need to bat cautiously especially in the first 15 overs of an innings. And even that may not be enough.
Just over a month ago, India were seemingly cruising at 83/0 against England in the triangular series and yet got bundled out for 200. England, too, were in bother during their reply at 66/5 at one stage before the pair of Jos Buttler and James Taylor took them home.
#3 Will India stick to tried and tested combination?
If you go by the current ICC ODI Team Rankings, India should be overcoming the West Indies without breaking sweat and perhaps trying out a few of the players who haven’t got much game time so far. However, with the knockout stages looming, there is no room for experimentation and India should go in with the same combination of 3 pace bowlers and 2 spinners even if the wicket demands playing an additional pacer.
Especially with the Perth wicket offering some bounce for the spinners, which was taken advantage of by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja against UAE, India have no real reason to change the winning combination apart from the fit again Mohammed Shami coming back in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
#4 India’s top-notch fielding
So far in this World Cup, India haven’t “misfielded” on too many occasions and dropped only one catch, the culprit being Suresh Raina who let go of a difficult leg slip chance against UAE. So along with the batting and bowling, India have been one of the best fielding sides in the tournament which has been riddled with spilled catches and misfields even by top teams like England and South Africa.
With the West Indies batting line-up containing players who are high on adventure and have the ability to self-destruct, India’s fielding would be a crucial element. Expect many chances to come India’s way, and expect India to grasp most of them.
#5 Can India continue unbeaten streak?
Andre Russell has quietly had a good World Cup picking wickets and playing important cameos in most games. Jerome Taylor has been West Indies’ best bowler so far. There are some underlying threats, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Ireland easily beat the team from the Caribbean islands only a couple of weeks ago.
Three days before that, Scotland almost pulled off an upset win over them in a warm-up match, and a few days before that, England tore them apart. Disputes with the board ensured that two of their best players – Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo – are back home, not to mention Sunil Narine’s withdrawal. West Indies can qualify for the knockouts even if they lose to India, and it’s unlikely that they have any ambition or expectation to go beyond that stage.
The Men in Blue showed steely resolve even in their routine chase against the UAE. All common sense cricket, no airy shots, no extravaganza, no posing for the cameras. Shikhar Dhawan, for example, was barely celebrating even after some of the top order batsmen were sent back to the pavilion in the South Africa game. They mean serious business.
Expect a great weekend ahead. Nothing has been won as yet, but the signs are all great.