Troubled West Indies refocus on cricket

There is a series to play for, one that is locked 1-1, but it feels like the series has been wrapped in cling film and left in the freezer. With a cyclone forcing the third ODI to be cancelled, and off-field issues surrounding the West Indies team pushing the actual cricket into the background, it feels like the Delhi ODI took place five weeks and not five days ago.

The cling film will come off in Dharamsala, where West Indies will need to prove themselves all over again. Following an encouraging performance in Kochi, where they made 321 in a massive win, familiar failings returned to haunt them in Delhi, where they gave up their last eight wickets for 45 runs and lost a match they had been in control of.

As a collection of names, this West Indies batting line-up is pretty handy, even without Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons. Still, the collapse at Feroz Shah Kotla wasn’t entirely unexpected. Exhortations that the players must have heard a million times – ‘we need to be more consistent, we need to play spin better’ – will probably ring in their ears once again when they gather for their team talk in Dharamsala.

Ambati Rayudu hits one over the top, England v India, 3rd ODI, Trent Bridge, August 30, 2014
Ambati Rayudu needs to up his scoring rate to lay a long-term claim to the No. 4 slot in India’s line-up © Getty Images
India haven’t been at their best in this series either, and it will worry them a little that their batting is yet to click into gear. And not just during this series. India had a collective batting average of over 35 in both 2012 and 2013, but this year they have averaged 31.15 – they haven’t done as badly since 2006. Having scored a century every 2.4 matches over the last two years, they have only made four centuries in 18 matches this year.

In a pre-World Cup year, India are yet to decide on their best opening combination and the best fit for the number four slot. The two remaining matches of this series are their final home ODIs before the World Cup, a sign that audition space is shrinking quite rapidly.

Form guide
India WLLWW (Completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LWWWW

Watch out for
He scored two half-centuries on the England tour and has an ODI average of 38.45, but doubts still persist over Ambati Rayudu’s suitability for the No. 4 slot. His overall strike rate of 69.23 isn’t too flash, and he has faced more than 25 balls and scored at a strike rate of less than 70 in a third of his 15 ODI innings. Rayudu will need to find ways to quicken his scoring or faces the risk of missing out on a place in the World Cup squad.

On a slightly two-paced Delhi track, India found Jerome Taylor extremely difficult to get away in the early overs of the second ODI. Since returning to international cricket after a 32-month period plagued with injury, Taylor has looked like he has never been away. The pitch at the HPCA Stadium should offer some help to the seam bowlers, and Taylor will enjoy himself if that is the case.

Team news
India added Akshar Patel to their ODI squad for the last two matches, but the left-arm spinner is unlikely to play unless the team management decides to rest Ravindra Jadeja.

India (likely): 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Mohammed Shami

With Lendl Simmons ruled out of the entire series with a back injury, West Indies will have to continue with a makeshift opening combination, with either one of the Bravos partnering Dwayne Smith at the top of the order. West Indies are flying in the left-arm spinner Nikita Miller as a replacement for Simmons.

West Indies (likely): 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Darren Bravo, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 5 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Andre Russell, 9 Sulieman Benn, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Jerome Taylor

Pitch and weather
Last year, Dharamsala’s debut ODI was played amid fears that snow would ruin any chance of the match taking place. That was in January. The match went ahead and England’s seamers moved the ball around prodigiously in the morning. This time, the weather should be milder, with maximum temperatures in the low 20s, and an afternoon start means the quick bowlers will probably derive the most help with the new ball under lights. Spin is likely to play less of a role than it did in Delhi.

Stats & trivia
If he bats, Virat Kohli will play his 50th ODI innings at home. If he scores 7 or more, he will become the second batsman after Michael Bevan to have 50-plus averages after 50-plus innings, both home and away.
Dwayne Bravo is on the cusp of two milestones: he is 32 runs and a wicket away from becoming the ninth player to complete the ODI double of 3000 runs and 200 wickets.
MS Dhoni is set to play his 250th ODI, becoming the eighth Indian player to do so. His 249 matches include three for Asia XI.
Ajinkya Rahane needs to score 18 to reach 1000 ODI runs.
“You will have a bad patch eventually and in those times you get to know the people who are ready to support you and people who are ready to rip you apart. I have learnt a lot, I have seen people change completely, 360 degrees, and that’s not surprising actually.”
Virat Kohli reflects on life during his recent run of poor form

“We were good for eighty overs and lost our way in the next 20. We need to think about the positives rather than the negatives and continue the way we have been playing.”
West Indies team manager Richie Richardson doesn’t want to dwell on the team’s defeat in the second ODI

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