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The tide of cricketing dominance seems to have finally shifted from one end of the globe to the other. A team that could field a second XI for the better part of the 20th century and still appear at its menacing best to most international sides is now worrying about defending its home turf against a touring side which has arrived without its top cricketers.
‘Second-string-side’ has become the catchword to describe this Indian team, which begins its Caribbean sojourn with Saturday’s Twenty20 International at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, followed by five ODIs. And ‘second string’ because, while the West Indies are looking to field the best eleven they can conjure – with the exception of Chris Gayle – India have arrived with lesser-known names.
On Thursday, when the Indian team arrived at the Oval for a late afternoon practice session with new coach Duncan Fletcher and his support staff, a glimpse of what took place in the batting nets for the next hour and a half made one wonder if this really was a second-string-side.
Five neatly rolled pitches were lined up for batsmen. Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, S Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary, Shikhar Dhawan and Parthiv Patel took turns to bat.
It was after they wrapped up practice that it occurred how, despite the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, this is still going to be the second-string Indian team’s series to lose.
India, no doubt, will have a problem of plenty going into the T20 game. One can expect the West Indies to test the young Indian batsman with pace and bounce, for that alone will be the weapon for the hosts to use when cricket gets going. Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Andre Russell have a lot on their hands in the coming days to ensure that a second string team doesn’t really end up embarrassing the Caribbean.
Should West Indies make pitches similar to the ones they did against Pakistan recently – ‘flat’ is the word – there will be carnage. And if they try something different in an attempt to help their pacers, the Windies batting lineup – missing Gayle and Chanderpaul – is likely to suffer.
India worked on an opening combination that might see keeper-batsman Parthiv Patel walking out with Shikhar Dhawan. Kohli at three, followed by Sharma. Raina, Badrinath and Pathan should make the rest of the order, with Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar forming the crux of the bowling attack.