India will look to prepare for WC against the West Indies in ODI series.

 

The West Indies cricket team hasn’t quite been on a hot streak ever since the departure of their greats in the 90’s. It seems more of a ‘motherhood and apple pie’ question of whether India will beat the below-par side because we all know the outcome at the back of our minds unless India become complacent enough at home grounds and throw away the series. Then why is this series important? Why was even the Test series important? Maybe it’s because of the rise of young guns like Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant.

More often than not, we shudder at the waste of time and resources if right players are not tried at the right time and series. Both Pant and Shaw were given opportunities when they were coming good for their respective state sides and both rose to the occasion. The brouhaha surrounding these two exciting young men is real and their style of batting display is what makes people wonder if it’s the dawn of new era of cricket.

Pant for that matter had quite a difficult start to his career in England but after struggling in initial matches, on a pitch where almost every batsman was finding it hard to stay put, he came out on top in the last match at Oval to score his maiden Test ton. The left-handed batsman proved his prowess and cemented his place further after scoring 184 runs in two innings at an astounding average of 92 against Windies.

Turn the clock back and you will be reminded of the 11th season of the Indian Premier League. A 20-year-old marauding Pant walks down the pitch with his team, Delhi Daredevils, struggling at 52 for 3 and what follows was a sheer genius of cricketing display. He tore apart the most celebrated bowling attack of the league smashing 128 not out off 63 balls, leaving many jaws hanging. Cricket pundits still consider that knock as the innings of the tournament.

The only chink in the ODI side has been the middle order and he may well perfectly fill in the place in an otherwise strong batting line-up. Moreover, it’s high time we start looking for Dhoni’s replacement post World Cup. Pant may well be cruising at the moment in batting but his ability behind stumps has been shoddy and a cause of concern to many. Pant conceded 100 byes during the England series. He has been on the path of improvement though, as was evident in the Test series against West Indies.

Wriddhiman Saha has been on the rough end of the stick so far owing to a series of injuries. He missed out on some important tours like South Africa and England and it may well be the best chance for Pant to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Another magnificent prospect and rightly adjudged the Man of the Series was 18-year-old Prithvi Shaw. We might say that conditions to bat was easy and he was not up against a quality bowling attack but at the end of the day, you have got to stay at the crease and score.

Although the selection committee, headed by MSK Prasad, has declared the team for first two games of the ODI series against West Indies but the young lad has become too much of a temptation to not try him out for the remainder of the series. A chance to play would boost his confidence and why not have a quality bench strength in case one of the current openers gets injured?

The captain and the coach have also showed confidence in him. “He is born to play cricket. He has been playing since the age of eight in the fields of Mumbai. You can see all those hard work showing. He is a spectator’s delight. There is a bit of Sachin there, a bit of Viru in him and when he walks, there is a bit of Lara as well,” Shastri had said after the completion of the Test series.

In the bowling line-up, Umesh Yadav will look to make a strong comeback. After being kept out of the ODI team since July against England at the Lord’s, the Indian dressing room’s expectations must have increased after his superb display against the West Indies in the Test series where he became the first Indian fast bowler to have scalped 10 wickets after Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath. It was also his first 10 wicket haul.

The team management also needs to realise how to take special care of Yadav considering the amount of pace he has. He can be a sure shot weapon in an overseas tour like the upcoming series in Australia. The sad part of the story – Shradul Thakur missed out on a big opportunity with a groin injury after delivering only 10 deliveries in Test match.

Another man who will grab selector’s eyeball is left-arm fast bowler Khaleel Ahmed. He was successfully able to showcase his set of skills on dead pitches during a victorious Asia Cup tour and the team should be looking for a left arm pacer to have a diverse attack in an already good-looking bowling line-up.

Virat Kohli seems to have cemented his place to be counted among the greats the game has ever produced. Sitting atop on a pile of runs, he has been on a spree, scoring across formats, and in different parts of the world. We have so much become used to his brilliance that we tend to forget how good is he on the field and how he gives almost everything to every delivery he faces or being bowled.

The maverick batsman is on the verge on achieving another feat, and that too of Sachin Tendulkar. He is just over 200 runs shot in amassing 10,000 runs and will go on to become quickest to get to the milestone.

In a nutshell, India’s winning home run is unlikely to be challenged by the West Indies but a caution must be maintained since limited overs cricket has been their forte for some time now. The series can also be seen as the best time to test the bench strength and giving the rest of the players time to rest and prepare for the Australia series.

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