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Keeping Focus: India v West Indies Preview

Don’t mind the cover picture that portrays Dwayne Bravo. He’s not around this time, but keeping focus on the task at hand is what the Indian team will be most concerned about. Unnecessary media attention drawn to the Virat Kohli argument with a journalist means that the Indian team has been spending more time answering questions about their favourite son’s behaviour, rather than on fine tuning the few chinks in their armoury.

Drama aside, this has been India’s best start to a World Cup ever. Even when India won the World Cup in 2011, they tied a game against England at the Bengaluru, unable to defend 338. A famous dive by Yusuf Pathan had saved India the blushes there.

This time, India has been clinical in its execution, against a disorganized Pakistan, ever-choking South Africa, and the fledgling UAE. Perhaps most surprising was South Africa’s abject surrender in its pursuit of India’s 307. Even more surprising in my mind, was their lack of answers to the counter-attack launched by Rahane and later Dhawan.

India have ticked most of the boxes so far. Dhawan is back in form with a hundred and a fifty. So is Kohli. Rahane and Raina have both come in around the 30th over and have taken the attack to the opposition scoring brisk fifties. Ashwin and more recently Sir Jadeja have bowled with control, bite, and have attacked the batsmen, particularly Ashwin. India have finally found their first-choice fast-bowling unit: Shami, the wicket-taker, Umesh with pace, and Mohit, the surprise package (who even managed to surprise Hashim Amla with a pacy bouncer). India’s fielding has been perhaps the best in this competition along with New Zealand. It’s no surprise that both those teams are at the top of the ladder in their respective groups.

Perhaps the two boxes India will need to tick are Rohit Sharma’s form (notwithstanding his fifty against the UAE), and it’s finishing. India will look to test those items today, and I truly hope that Dhoni promotes himself up the order to get some game time.

For the West Indies, this will be an opportunity to show that they are not pushovers against the top sides. AB DeVilliers has hammered them for two unbelievably fast hundreds in the last month and a half. Their skipper Jason Holder doesn’t know what has hit him each time AB has delivered an onslaught so powerful, people have become scared of the legend that AB has chalked out for himself.

Their bowling is toothless in the face of an attack, particularly as they rely on three frontline bowlers – Holder himself, Jerome Taylor and Suleiman Benn.  The rest is a mix of medium pace from Sammy and Russell, and some part-time spin from Gayle and Samuels. For a fast, bouncy wicket like Perth, they will be well-served in including Kemar Roach. But who would this be at the expense of? Perhaps due to India’s ability against spin bowling, they could drop Benn. But it will still leave them with three frontline bowlers.

That just doesn’t cut it in my opinion. Not for a world cup winning side. On the batting front, with the rise of Lendl Simmons as a lower order finisher, they always look dangerous due to the plethora of strong power-hitters they have. The key for the West Indies is having either Gayle or Samuels kick on for a big score, which will pave the way for the lower order to attack.

Given India’s disciplined bowling in this World Cup, I don’t see that happening. India’s batting is also more than capable of chasing down whatever seemingly mammoth total the West Indies can put up, so my gut says India has this game.

My prediction is that India will win by 40 runs if they bat first, or by 5 wickets if they bat second. That’s just about the average winning margin in one day cricket. I only say so because the West Indian batsmen seem to rise to the occasion when they play India. Not sure what it is, but it could be the familiarity due to the IPL, their preference for the slower bowlers, or their liking for a big occasion, something that an India game these days, anywhere around the world, brings.

I trust Dhoni will have other plans though. 4-0 is on the cards.


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