West indies play India in the second match of the teams in group 1 in the ICC T20 world championships. Both teams should have a point to prove. For India , the defending champions, it should be their first real test after coming up against a self destructive Bangladesh team and a vibrant but ultimately outclassed Irish team. The West Indies looked dominant against Australia and their batting also performed against Sri Lanka but the general feeling is that their fielding is not of the standard of a championship winning team. There has also been talk of the level of commitment of the Australians who seemed to already be looking towards the upcoming Ashes series.
The pressure is also on both teams from the fans. The IPL is the most lucrative, largest and best organized 20/20 tournament in the world. Ideally it is the perfect training ground for the international stage given its plethora of international stars. India are the defending champions having won the inaugural title before the IPL came into existence and the lessons learnt in the IPL, which is after all an Indian tournament, will be expected to be put in place. The Indian fans, always vociferous, will now expect nothing less than a successful title defense.
The West Indian team comes into the tournament with a less than ideal warm-up having performed with a complete lack interest against England. This was further compounded by statements by Chris Gayle which said that 20/20 was their preferred format. All this statement has now done is focus all the public’s attention on this competition, the West Indies cannot afford to fail or they will be lambasted for being able to perform where they are supposed to be at their best.
Injury to Virender Sehwag would usually come as a huge blow to the Indian side but such is the strength of the current team that Rohit Sharma has fit in seamlessly into the opening position. Sharma and Guatam Gambhir make a formidable opening pair, both are capable of long innings but are able to change gears very quickly and shake up the best of bowling attacks. India need their top order to all fire to give themselves their best chance of winning this games. The Indian lower order remains largely untested, a sign of the performance of the top order, but a lack of match practice could hinder them if they are needed.
For all his power hitting we know he is capable of, Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems intent on playing a stabilizer’s role and only unleashing a big hit rarely. If the openers are out cheaply then the pressure is on Yuvraj Singh to get them to a large total. Suresh Raina still has not performed at international level with any measure of consistency and while Yusuf Pathan has had some spectacular knocks in the IPL he remains largely an unknown factor in internationals.
There hasn’t been any sign of it yet but if the ball swings it will be interesting to see how the Indian batsmen face up to it. The West Indies need their opening bowlers to perform, as they did against Australia, to restrict India. The accuracy and pace of Fidel Edwards was evident in the matches he played in the IPL but this also meant that some of the Indian players will have faced him before. Whether this will help them in facing him remains to be seen. Sulieman Benn has developed a measure of control which allows him to be a bowler ideal for stifling the run rate. Dwanye Bravo , with his mix of slower balls and cutters, remains a bowler best suited for the death overs. Add that to the trouble he has given the Indian batsmen, especially Yuvraj Singh, with his slower deliveries and it is a given that he should be saved for after the initial 10 overs.
The question is who bowls the other 4 overs of the game provided the specialist bowlers and Bravo all bowl their allotted overs. Chris Gayle can bowl his restrictive off-spin, but seems reluctant to give himself a full four overs in this form of the game. Keiron Pollard has shown himself to be completely out his depth when bowling at this level and was clearly rattled by Dilshan’s inventiveness in the last game. Any sort of mental lapse when faced with unorthodox shots will surely be exploited by the Indian batsmen. The best West Indian bowler in the last game was Lendl Simmons, but since he is in reality a batsman primarily and only a part time bowler, then it would involve leaving out a batsman. The non performance of Xavier Marshall would suggest he would be the one to give way.
For the first time in recent memory India have a settled pair of opening bowlers. While they prefer to open with Irfan Pathan pairing Zaheer Khan in this format, Ishant Sharma still remains a dangerous prospect to face as a first change. Both Zaheer and Irfan will find swing if there is any and are sure to exploit it with the usual effectiveness which left handed bowlers do.
The real strength of India lies, as always, in their spin bowling. From the veteran Harbhajan Singh to the newcomer Pragyan Ojha , India’s spinners have maintained control over the opponents while consistently taking wickets. Harbhajan has performed in this level as he does at all other levels of international cricket, still flighting the ball and getting sharp bounce coupled with unwavering accuracy , he is a difficult prospect for the West Indies. Ojha is in the initial stages of his career but so far everything has gone his way. In both matches so far he has begun his spell with a wicket and seems capable of hitting the same spot with every delivery and causing the batsmen to get themselves out due to frustration from lack of runs.
The West Indies rely very heavily on their opening partnership and especially on Chris Gayle. As he showed against Australia, when he gets going he is difficult to stop . Andre Fletcher, himself an aggressive batsman, seems the perfect foil for Gayle as he is not afraid to let his more senior partner have the strike if his is hitting well. The performance of the rest of the batting line-up if either one fails is what will worry the West Indies. Dwanye Bravo and Lendl Simmons both had good knocks in the last game but the lack of form of Chanderpaul is a serious setback. Keiron Pollard only had a short knock but he is capable of hitting the ball very far and the West Indies will hope that he does so very soon.
The key to this game should be how the West Indies play the Indian spinners. Against Sri Lanka they were effectively undone by Muralitharan and Mendis with difficulties against playing spin being exposed. The best players of spin in the West Indies are Chanderpaul and Sarwan but neither looks capable at the moment of the destructiveness needed to reach a total competitive enough to defeat India. Gayle’s lack of footwork could be downfall against the spinners as he is reluctant to get to the pitch of the ball but his reach may save him in the end. The West Indian lower order has not been called on in this tournament but in the matches preceding this competition they have shown it would not be wise to