Georgetown: The absence of the top stars from the home team notwithstanding, the Indians are hoping to make the maximum out of the three-day game against Guyana XI, the only practice match ahead of the Test series, starting here on Friday.
The Indians are most likely to utilise the opportunity to test the skills of the younger members of the team who are on their first trip to this country. Though skipper Saurav Ganguly, who reached here on Wednesday night after staying back in India for two days to be with his ailing wife, confirmed that he would lead the team in the match, team management sources said some of the other senior members might give it a skip to provide a chance to the youngsters. Only five of the 16-member team have previously been on a tour to West Indies, and the Indians are anxious to have the first-timers get a feel of the wickets and conditions in this part of the world.
Nevertheless, the Indians are disappointed at getting a second-string team as opponents in the only practice match before they start their quest for their first series victory outside the sub-continent in 16 years. Normally, the opening first class fixture is eagerly looked forward to by a touring party but the importance of this game has been diluted because of the absence of major Guyana players who are away in Jamaica to play the Busta Shield final.
The players missing from the home team's ranks are the mainstays of West Indian line- up including captain Carl Hooper and in their absence there is hardly any recognisable face to make up the playing eleven. Besides Hooper, players like Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Mahendra Nagamoottoo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Reon King, Colin Stuart and Neil McGarrell are away in Jamaica doing state duty while the Indians rue the robbed opportunity of being given a good dry run for the Test series. The tourists are thus likely to give most senior players a break while testing the nerves and skills of the younger brigade, both in bowling and batting departments. Opener Wasim Jaffer and middle order batsman Dinesh Mongia are almost certain to be included in the playing eleven as are fast bowlers Ashish Nehra and Tinu Yohannan.
Team sources indicated that Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble may cool their heels under the shade rather than exert themselves in humid conditions against a none-too-challenging opposition. The home team is led by number four batsman Travis Dowlin who is averaging 54 in first class cricket but could make only 95 from the first four games this season before being dropped.
Narsingh Deonarine is the under-19 captain and a player of promise. He had some good scores in the under-19 World Cup where West Indies was knocked out in the semi- finals by Australia. Andrew Gonsalves opened batting for Guyana in the first two matches this year but didn't do too well. He is said to be more of a One-day player. Krishna Arjuna is another emerging talent in the middle order who actually got a hundred against Barbados in his debut first class season this year.
Vishal Nagamootoo, brother of Mahendra, is Guyana's number one wicket-keeper but, because of a motor accident early this year, is actually feeling his way back into big-time cricket. The team is said to have reasonable strengths in the fast bowling department. Reon Griffith played all through the first five matches of the Busta Cup. He is nippy and genuinely quick. He is likely to share new ball with Reon Thomas who is rated high by the locals.