One just has to listen to Dwayne Bravo’s racy number with Grammy Award-winning Jamaican reggae artist Beenie Man in a recent album to get a picture of the brand of cricket the West Indians play.
They are cricket’s party boys, who love the short format, the World T20 champions with guys like Chris Gayle who can whack the ball out of the park with little effort.
The West Indies may have suffered a mauling at the hands of India in the two-Test series in Kolkata and Mumbai but the visiting side looks at the three-match One-Day International series, which begins at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday afternoon, with a lot of hope. Clearly, it is a team that is keen to brush away bitter memories and start afresh.
“This format gives you the opportunity to express yourself,” said all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies ODI captain who arrived to take the mantle from Darren Sammy, the team’s struggling Test skipper. “For a couple of days, the guys were a bit down but this format (the one-dayers) offers us more freedom. The guys had two good training sessions in Mumbai. Most of us here, we are more comfortable in this format. I don’t think this series will be as one-sided as the Test series was.”
That, in itself, is a positive start. Another is the arrival of Sunil Narine, the team’s world-class off-spinner, who was strangely ignored for the Tests.
India too will be very happy to hear that and to see the West Indies raise its game. More than the series, the last two Tests had been all about Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell and it had been a very emotional one too.
Now, the focus will be entirely on cricket. And the home boys too will relish a strong challenge before they leave for the tough tour of South Africa.
The Indians, the world No. 1 in one-dayers, start as clear favourites against the West Indies, ranked seventh in the world. With five batsmen in the ICC World’s top 20, a list headed by Virat Kohli, and with Rohit Sharma, who hit a double century against Australia in the last game and followed it up with a dream debut in Tests, the hosts are a very confident side.
Yuvraj Singh — who has had a poor series against Australia — is also likely to get a chance to regain his form.
With that being the situation, Dhoni is likely to make just one change in the eleven that played the last game against Australia in Bangalore, bringing in Amit Mishra for Vinay Kumar as the slow Kochi track is expected to help spinners.
A ‘banned’ word
“Well, experiment is a word that was long banned in Indian cricket,” said Dhoni, making it clear that he would like to go with a settled combination even if the opposition is weak. “We don’t experiment and we don’t use the word ‘experiment’… there is always pressure on us to win the game so when we try to give chances to individuals, at times it becomes a slow process.”
The match should see spinners like R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the thick of things.
Meanwhile, P.V. Ramachandran has predicted that the team which wins the toss would bat first.
But Dhoni kept his cards close to his chest when he said, “I don’t know, we’ll see it tomorrow at the start of the game because it’s still close to 24 hours and with the amount of heat, the wicket can change a lot. So, we’ll see before the start of the game how it looks and that will be an ideal reflection on how to go about the game.”
Well, expect a thriller on Thursday.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ambati Rayadu, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Jayadev Unadkat, Mohit Sharma. Coach: Duncan Fletcher.
West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (captain), Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Narsingh Deonarine, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Sunil Narine, Veersammy Permaul, Kieran Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons. Coach: Ottis Gibson.
Umpires: Rodney Tucker and Vineet Kulkarni. Match referee: David Boon.
Match starts at 1.30 p.m.