Bridgetown (Barbados): With a rain-enforced break providing them welcome respite from a hectic schedule, India would be in a better frame of mind to take on the West Indies as the aborted One-day series takes off on Wednesday. Looking to redeem their pride in the One-dayers after losing the Test series 1-2, the Indians have had absolutely no opportunity to take the field after the fifth and final Test in Jamaica.
But the forced break gave the team the much needed rest and they can now pursue their objective with greater zeal. Unlike in Jamaica, where it had been raining continuously for the last few days, conditions in Barbados are bright and sunny. Even though scattered showers have been forecast for Wednesday, there is no major threat to the game as of now. Unfortunately, the venue of the third One-dayer on Wednesday has not been a very happy hunting ground for the Indians. They have lost seven of the eight Tests, the last one coming in the just concluded series which saw West Indies neutralise a 0-1 deficit, and both the One-dayers. The Indian batsmen have generally struggled to come to terms with the extra pace and bounce in the pitch here.
Having strengthened their batting department with a few One-day specialists joining the squad, the Indians would be hoping they are able to put up a good total on the board this time. Skipper Saurav Ganguly had slight concerns on his health front during the intervening days but is feeling well now and there are no doubts about his participating in the game on Wednesday. All indications are that Rahul Dravid would be asked to double up in the role of a wicket-keeper to accommodate an extra batsman. Even though there was no official word on it from the team management so far, among the five new arrivals, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh as also all-rounder Ajit Agarkar are likely to feature in the final XI.
Coach John Wright was concerned with India's inability to chase totals and was chalking out new strategies to remedy this aspect. As part of the game plan, India may also go in for a change in the world's most successful opening combination of Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. There are reports that either Sehwag or Dinesh Mongia, who did not get to play in the test series despite being in the squad, would be asked to open the innings with Ganguly if India bat second and Tendulkar would come later in order to provide greater stability to the middle order. With the pitch set to favour the fast bowlers, Agarkar is most likely to form the pace troika with the two left-arm seamers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra while offie Harbhajan Singh would be the lone spinner.
Left-arm spinner Murali Karthik and Mohammad Kaif, the other two to join the squad for the One-dayers, are likely to be left out. West Indies is all pumped up after its victory in the Test series and is keen to assert itself in the shorter version of the game too. Its main batsmen are in top form even though star Brian Lara is far from his best. Skipper Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan have had a dream run in the Test series and they look set to continue their form in the One-dayers too. And despite all the talk about the decline in its fast bowling standards, West Indies has been served well by Mervyn Dillon and Cameron Cuffy in the Tests.
The host has reinforced its pace attack with Corey Collymore, who has come in for Adam Sanford, and also brought in newcomer Gareth Breese into the side. The previous One-day International at this venue between the two teams resulted in a 10-wicket defeat for India, the hero for West Indies being Chanderpaul, who scored a fine unbeaten century.
Teams (from): India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Mohd Kaif, Ajay Ratra, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Tinu Yohannan and Murali Karthik.
West Indies: Carl Hooper (captain), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Mervyn Dillon, Cameron Cuffy, Pedro Collins, Corey Collymore, Gareth Breese And Ryan Hinds.