S. Dinakar

Bridgetown: The Indians face a test of character at the Kensington Oval here on Sunday. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men might just be a defeat away from elimination.

When the side found itself in a similar situation in the ICC World Twenty20 last year - the side went down to host England.

Little has changed from the last edition, when India was in a similar situation and went down to host England. Some of the young Indian batsmen still come up short against searing short-pitched bowling on juicy surfaces.

The Indian weakness — this side does not include Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or V.V.S. Laxman — was exposed again. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted that the Indians, raised on very different kinds of wickets at home, have difficulty adjusting to steep bounce.

Despite Rohit Sharma's counter-attacking innings, the Indians, done in by the fiery Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait, finished a mile behind the Aussies. The only consolation for India was that the West Indies was also outplayed by Sri Lanka later on Friday afternoon.

It will be a contest between two sides coming back from crushing defeats. As host, the pressure would be more on the West Indies to pull off a win and stay in the competition. But then, Chris Gayle and his men have the advantage of knowing the conditions better.

In Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor, the West Indies has two fast bowlers who can pound the Indian batsmen with short-pitched deliveries. The pull shot is an option but is not the easiest to pull off on surfaces such as the ones at Kensington Oval. The ball hurries off the pitch and the batsman is often late for the stroke. The miscued hits are being pouched with glee.

The Indian top-order will have to hold firm. Here, India misses the mercurial Virender Sehwag, the marauder can disrupt the opposition gameplan.

The Indians will have to rework their bowling combination. The combative Vinay Kumar could be considered as the third paceman. Even if Praveen Kumar's replacement Umesh Yadav arrives in time, the think-tank is unlikely to field him against the West Indies.

Vinay Kumar should take Ravindra Jadeja's place. Right now, Jadeja's confidence seems to be in his boots.

Spin option

India also has the option of fielding leg-spinner Piyush Chawla as the fifth bowler. The bounce in the surface here could enhance Chawla's bowling. He could come in for Yusuf Pathan, who is unlikely to make a difference on the Barbados pitch with his booming blows. In any case, packing the side with batsmen is a largely defensive move. In fact, Irfan Pathan, with his all-round ability, could have been handy for India in these conditions.

The West Indies, irrespective of its tame display against the Sri Lankans, is capable of coming back hard. Had the side held the catches in the early phase of the duel on Friday, we might have had a different story to tell.

It was the West Indies which first rocked India with effective short-pitched bowling at Lord's in a Super Eights match of the ICC World Twenty20 last year. Memories will be fresh.

Chris Gayle is always a threat. If he fires then the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo could build their efforts around the captain. Heavy-hitter Kieron Pollard is always dangerous in the end overs.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will have a key role to play in the early overs against the left-handed Gayle. The face-off could have a significant bearing on the contest.

This will be a big game. The side that holds its nerve will emerge victorious.

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), G. Gambhir, M. Vijay, S. Raina, Yuvraj Singh, R. Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, P. Chawla, Zaheer Khan, Vinay Kumar, Ashish Nehra, D. Karthik, Y. Pathan, R. Jadeja.

West Indies: C. Gayle (captain), S. Chanderpaul, R. Sarwan, D. Bravo, W. Hinds, A. Fletcher, K. Pollard, D. Sammy, S. Benn, J. Taylor, K. Roach, R. Rampaul, N. Miller, D. Ramdin, N. Deonarine.

Match starts at 7 p.m. IST.

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