Visakhapatnam: It wasn’t quite the script that most had envisaged at the start of the series, but West Indies have ensured the pressure will be on the Indian batsmen in the second one-dayer here on Friday.
World champions India have lost only one match at home this year, and they have faced tougher opponents than the Windies in the course of that dominant run. However, a failure of the top order - albeit a weakened one - meant India had to rely on numbers 10 and 11 to take them over the line in the first match in Cuttack.
The Indian bowling attack is far more inexperienced than their batting, but pacers Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron were impressive as they restricted West Indies to an inadequate total. West Indies’ struggle against the spinners continued, and R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja proved to be hard to get away. The Visakhapatnam pitch, being more favourable for batsmen, will require more hard work, but the bowling attack will be expected to continue its collective good form.
However, India will be hoping they do not have to rely on their bowlers’ batting form as well, as was the case for the second match in a row, after the last-ball draw in the Mumbai Test. As stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag said, there can be no excuses for why India found themselves at 59 for 5, even if only four of the World Cup-winning squad are present in the current team. In any case, that worry should be enough to rid the team of any complacency that might have been behind the careless shots, which led to most of the top order’s downfall.
Sehwag will have to lead by example and improve his batting record as captain - he averages 21.50 in eight matches as captain, with 44 being his best score. Gautam Gambhir, still not playing in his preferred opener’s spot, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina also will need to come good, so that the middle order - missing the power and finishing of Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni - is not put under undue pressure again. Rohit Sharma’s timely half-century will do his bid to find a regular spot in the Indian team no harm, while Jadeja is pushing his case well after being given a second lease of life.
West Indies find themselves in a similar boat. Despite the absence of Ravi Rampaul, their bowlers managed to trouble the more-fancied Indian batsmen, with Kemar Roach - who picked up 3 for 46 - standing out. So the cause for concern is the form of their batsmen, with the in-form Darren Bravo the only one who managed to convert his good start into a big score. The Trinidadian has been in sublime form since the Test series, and he will be their main hope once again. However, Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath and Marlon Samuels might find their stride on a batting track, while more will also be expected from big-hitting all-rounder Kieron Pollard.
Despite their narrow escape in Cuttack, India will still be favourites at a ground where they have won all the three previous matches held. They won’t be taking the spirited West Indies lightly now, though the visitors will be frustrated to have gone so close again and still not been able to pick up a result on this tour. The fight shown by them promises another competitive match, but the expected full crowd in Vizag - which will be watching its first game since October 2010 - will hope the Indian batting provides the happy ending they are coming to watch.
India: Virender Sehwag (captain), Parthiv Patel (wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Abhimanyu Mithun and Rahul Sharma.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Danza Hyatt, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Kemar Roach, Anthony Martin, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieran Powell and Ravi Rampaul.