Buoyed by Motera win, Windies look to square series
India will have to sort out their top-order batting woes, as, buoyed by a morale-lifting 16-run victory in the previous game, a resurgent West Indies will be tough to beat in the fourth and penultimate One-dayer at the Holkar Stadium, in Indore, on Thursday.
The West Indies competed well against the stronger and more fancied hosts in the first two matches that they lost, at Cuttack and Vishakapatnam, but the victory in the must-win Ahmedabad match has lifted their sagging spirits on the tour on which very little has gone right for them.
The much-vaunted Indian batting line-up will certainly be wary of the dangers posed by the varied Windies attack after the way they folded up at the Motera Stadium.
Rohit Sharma played a lone dominant hand among the front-line batsmen and has been the bulwark of this batting order that is without the presence of key players Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni -- both resteed -- and the indisposed Yuvraj Singh.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Sehwag, Gambhir need to buck up
The biggest flops have been the Delhi duo of Virender Sehwag, who is leading the squad in the absence of Dhoni, and Gautam Gambhir, who has performed well below par in the three games.
Both were dismissed shockingly for first-ball ducks by West Indies pacer Ravi Rampaul, who has made a big impact with both the bat and ball in the rubber.
Sehwag and Gambhir need to pull up their socks and come up with bigger contributions for India to take an unassailable lead and clinch their second ODI series in a row after the 5-0 whitewash of England.
"We have to look at our top order. We have to click and fire. We have to give a good start as a team so that we can achieve any target or set any for the West Indies in the coming games," said Sehwag.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Pathan could provide the right pace
Parthiv Patel, donning the gloves in the absence of Dhoni, did show encouraging form in Ahmedabad while stroking his way to 39, but will need to convert such starts into more meaningful ones.
The bowling too did not exactly set the Sabarmati river on fire, with the likes of Umesh Yadav and Abhimanyu Mithun having been carted around by West Indian captain Darren Sammy and Andre Russell.
The old folly of the Indian bowling attack to concede big runs to the lower order after packing off the top has resurfaced in this series.
Yadav has been given a break for the last two games and Irfan Pathan, who had been in the international wilderness for nearly two-and-a-half years, has been brought into the squad; his inclusion in the playing 11 should give the right-oriented pace attack a bit more variety.
Image: Irfan Pathan
Uncertainty over Bravo's fitness
The Baroda man, who has been rewarded after a consistent display in the Ranji Trophy this season, should add meat and experience to the line-up with his ability as a power-hitting left-handed floater in the batting order.
'It would be difficult for me to say whether it's more of happiness or relief, but I would like to make full use of the opportunities available. Not many people get a chance to represent the country and I have been fortunate enough to do that and, God willing, would like to represent my nation for a long time,' he has said.
There certainly could be a hint of nervousness in him when he steps on the field, but the 27-year-old is a potential match-winner and could not have asked for a more appropriate stage to rekindle his career.
Pathan and Vinay Kumar too could be a handful for the West Indies batting line-up, which is likely to miss the classy Darren Bravo, who retired hurt when in good flow in Ahmedabad because of a left hamstring strain and did not resume his innings or come on to field.
Left-handed Bravo's availability for the match is in doubt and his absence would be a big blow for the struggling Windies outfit.
Image: Darren Bravo
Return of Samuels welcome news for Windies
The visiting batsmen will again be confronted by the spin duo of Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja, both of whom bowled well and economically in Ahmedabad.
The visitors need to be more positive against this duo to keep the momentum going in the middle overs.
The return to form of Marlon Samuels, who batted fluently for his first half century of the rubber at Ahmedabad, is welcome news for the inexperienced batting order which has worked in fits and starts.
Rampaul is the stand-out performer with the ball for the visitors on this tour in both Tests and ODIs, and the tourists should also be very pleased with the debut of off-spinner Sunil Narine, who showed good variety and control in Ahmedabad with his flat stuff to pick 2 for 34. But the tourists' bowling, overall, looks a bit short of the necessary depth to trouble the long and formidable Indian batting unless it self-destructs as it did in Ahmedabad.
Pitch curator Samundar Singh Chauhan said on Tuesday that the wicket is batsmen-friendly.
India: Virender Sehwag (Capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Parthiv Patel, R Ashwin, Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Varun Aaron, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary.
West Indies: Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Danza Hyatt, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy (Capt.), Andre Russell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Anthony Martin, Sunil Narine, Kieran Powell, Jason Mohammed.
Image: Ravi Rampaul