Insofar as the series is concerned, the third and final four-day match between India ‘A’ and West Indies ‘A’ assumes great significance.
The home side trails 1-0 and the last game, scheduled to begin at the KSCA Stadium here on Wednesday, presents an opportunity to salvage a face-saving draw.
But as is the nature of ‘A’ tours, the match — and indeed the whole series — carries meaning beyond its mere result.
When India ‘A’ and West Indies ‘A’ take the field in this busy town in Karnataka’s north-west, the larger focus will invariably switch to three individuals.
None of Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir pulled up any trees in the previous game in Shimoga (or Shimago, as the WICB preferred to call it); Hubli thus offers a last chance to catch the eye before the West Indies senior team comes visiting in November.
Eyes on the trio
Zaheer, who turned 35 on Monday, sent down 33 overs in Shimoga — an effective workout for someone returning from a long lay-off — but claimed only two wickets.
Sehwag and Gambhir, meanwhile, made 7 and 11 respectively in India’s one innings. Success here will not guarantee a future in international cricket, but failure will only raise more doubts.
Their captain, Cheteshwar Pujara, need not fear about his place in the Test side yet, but after scores of 25, 3 and 17 from his last three outings with the ‘A’ team, he too will feel the need to make runs.
Pujara will have to do without fast bowler Mohd. Shami, who has been included in the Indian ODI team against Australia; Ishwar Pandey or Dhawal Kulkarni could take his spot in the eleven.
The West Indies ‘A’ players looked in good spirits during a spot of football on Tuesday afternoon.
They have more than held their own on this tour and should the pitch be an improved one than what it was at Shimoga, the spectators (a turnout of 15,000 is expected) could be in for a corker.
The teams (from): India ‘A’: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sheldon Jackson, Abhishek Nayar, Paras Dogra, Uday Kaul, Parveez Rasool, Bhargav Bhatt, Dhawal Kulkarni, Zaheer Khan, Ishwar Pandey, Mohammad Kaif and V.A. Jagadeesh.
West Indies ‘A’: Kirk Edwards (capt.), Kieran Powell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Fidel Edwards, Miguel Cummins, Narsingh Deonarine, Assad Fudadin, Jahmar Hamilton, Delorn Johnson, Leon Johnson, Nikita Miller, Ashley Nurse, Veerasammy Permaul and Chadwick Walton.
Umpires: Rajesh Deshpande and Sudhir Asnani; Match referee: B. Raghunath.