Bridgetown (Barbados): Prolific Indian middle-order batsman Venkatsai Laxman has been dropped for the third One-day International against the West Indies, starting at the Kensington Oval on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old stylish batsman was India's highest run-getter in a recent five-Test series against the West Indies, scoring 474 in eight innings. "It was really a tough decision to drop Laxman for One-dayers, but it was necessary for the balance of the team," India captain Saurav Ganguly said on Tuesday. Laxman, who has scored 857 runs in 37 One-dayers with one century and six half- centuries, has been replaced with Mohammad Kaif, one of the five players to join the team after the Test series. "I think Kaif deserves a chance as he has been batting very well in One-day matches. He's also a very good fielder," Ganguly said. Kaif, 21, has so far made 249 in eight matches with two half-centuries. India sprang one more surprise, omitting specialist wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra in order to strengthen its batting.
Batting let the tourists down in the third Test at this venue early this month as it was shot out for 102 on a lively track in its first innings before losing the match by 10 wickets. India has lost both of their one-dayers here, including a 10-wicket defeat in its last match in 1997. "Rahul Dravid will keep wickets I'm sure Dravid will do a good job as he has kept wickets before. It'll also give us more options," Ganguly said. India goes into the match with seven specialist batsmen, three fast bowlers and one spinner. Paceman Tinu Yohannan will make his One-day debut as he has been named in the playing 11 in place of left-arm fast bowler Ashish Nehra. "Tinu needs an opportunity in One-dayers as he has been bowling well in the nets," Ganguly said.
Yohannan has bowled in just one match in two months, finishing with three for 84 against Busta XI in a tour game at St Lucia. West Indies captain Carl Hooper also looked forward to an improved batting performance from his team so as to gain an advantage in the five-match series. The last two matches will be played at Port-of-Spain in Trinidad on June 1 and 2. "We want to bat as deep as possible because One-dayers are a batsmen's game," said Hooper, who played with four fast bowlers in the last four Tests. "I don't think we'll go into the match with four pacemen.
I think this wicket looks good, so we'll have to strengthen our batting. "India has a strong batting line-up. It has an outstanding pair of openers in Tendulkar and Ganguly. We've to make plans to get them out early. They also have good youngsters in Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh," he said. Hooper said he hoped his fast bowlers would continue to do a good job after having served the team well in the Test series. "Our fast bowlers bowled well in the Test series and I hope they deliver in one-dayers also," he said.
India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Mongia, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Tinu Yohannan.
West Indies (from): Carl Hooper (capt), Wavell Hinds, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Mervyn Dillon, Cameron Cuffy, Corey Collymore, Pedro Collins, Ryan Hinds and Gareth Breese.