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India start favourites against West Indies

June 05, 2011 19:51 IST

Off to a perfect start by winning the lone Twenty20 game of the tour, a second-string India will have to shift gears quickly and now brace up for an ODI battle against the depleted West Indies in a five-match series starting, in Port of Spain on Monday.

India are without the services of Sachin Tendulkar, regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who have all been rested, in addition to the ill Yuvraj Singh, and the injured duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

But led by Suresh Raina, the Indians have made a confident start to the tour by easing past the hosts by 16 runs in the lone Twenty20 match.

Raina, who claims to have learnt a lot about captaincy from Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Dhoni, marshalled the young side well and they hardly showed any nerves while outplaying the Caribbeans desperately missing a certain Chris Gayle.

The man who set the IPL alight with his lusty hitting is a pariah in West Indies cricket right now due to his outbursts against the Board, reduced to a mere spectator at least for the first two ODIs.

Gayle's absence takes the zing out of West Indies' already brittle batting line-up and the Indians couldn't have asked for more.

"West Indies have players like Gayle missing," Raina has already pointed that out.

But facing a depleted West Indies also means the added pressure of not just winning but winning big and Raina is well aware of it.

"There's always pressure and we have done well under pressure. It's for us as players to execute the plans of the coach well. We have to play our natural game," he says.

A look at the two rival line-ups reveal that even without Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhoni, the Indians have the batting to take the attack to the hosts' camp.

During the Twenty20 win, the Indians were at a precarious 56 for four by the ninth over but Subramaniam Badrinath and Rohit Sharma stayed put for 71 runs and the launch-pad helped later batsmen to plunder 72 runs in the final five overs.

India has rather unproven openers in Parthiv Patel and Shikhar Dhawan, who failed to click in T20 game, but it would take more than a Ravi Rampaul or Dwayne Bravo or Andre Russell to stop this extremely formidable array of young Indians manning the middle order.

Led by Munaf Patel, Indian pace bowling is not the strongest but the spinners spearheaded by Harbhajan Singh would be expected to do well on a track on which the ball turns quite a bit.

West Indies have a reasonable batting line-up on paper with Darren Bravo being the pick of the lot but it hasn't quite translated into enough runs on the board in recent times.

All rounder Kieron Pollard, who wasn't included in the Twenty20 side having not played in the most recent Caribbean Twenty20 tournament, is back in the side for the first two ODIs and that would bolster the brittle line-up.

Bowling, however, would be a big concern for skipper Darren Sammy. The skipper himself did well to pick up four wickets yesterday but the rest of the attack let him down by conceding late runs.

Given these shortcomings, it would be quite a task for the Caribbeans to tame India, despite it being no less depleted.

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