WIndies captain warns India: We~~ve improved

Published: Thursday, May 18, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Kingston:Winning will be on the minds of Brian Lara and Rahul Dravid, when West Indies and India get down to business in the first One-day International of a five-match series on Thursday at Sabina Park.

West Indies gained a timely boost of confidence, after shutting out a depleted Zimbabwe 5-0 in the preceding, bilateral ODI series, but recognise the Indians are a much tougher assignment and will be aiming to keep the winning habit going.

"This is the real test of how far we have come over the last few weeks," remarked West Indies captain Brian Lara at a news conference to launch the series.

"I think it is important to understand that we had some games to play against Zimbabwe, and it was very important for our confidence that we won those games, and that we won them emphatically."

Lara added his side had improved over the last three weeks of the series against the Zimbabweans, and now he expects them to execute what they have learnt.

"Winning can be contagious and it doesn't matter against whom you play," he said.

"Once you get that winning formula going, moving forward things can get better for you. I am 90 per cent happy with every discipline with which we will enter the game, and it should be only a matter of stepping up a gear for better competition."

Lara acknowledged India's success in recent matches against Pakistan and England on the sub-continent, but noted the visitors have a weak record in the Caribbean.

India have won only four of the 15 ODIs they have contested in the Caribbean, and this includes their first series victory on their last trip four years ago.

The Indians, under Sourav Ganguly, prevailed 2-1 in a five-match series in which, ironically, the first two matches in Jamaica were abandoned because of rain.

"History would suggest that a lot is in our favour in both forms of the game - Tests and ODIs, and am sure that the guys are looking forward to ensuring that this remains the same," Lara said.

"We know that this is a very good Indian team. They have just completed series against Pakistan and England, and were victorious on both occasions, so there is some exciting talent.

"Though they have come to the Caribbean without Sachin Tendulkar, their premier batsman, I still think that they will be a force with which to be reckoned on the field."

India's stocks have soared in the shortened version of the game over the last year. They have steadily climbed five places in the ICC Rankings to third in the World.

Dravid admits however, the Caribbean trip could be a learning experience for several of the young, inexperienced members of his side, as India seeks to improve ahead of the 2007 ICC World Cup in the West Indies.

"We have a bit of inexperience in our bowling attack and some of the young batsmen coming through, so we see this as an opportunity to give them some exposure and give them some opportunities in a tough environment," he said.

"Obviously, our fielding is an area upon which we are constantly working and seeking to get better.

"In most teams, you are constantly looking to get better. While we are satisfied with the results over the last 20 to 25 ODIs, we know we can get better, so this is something which we will focus on in this series."

Dravid felt though, the unfamiliarity of so many players to the conditions in the Caribbean, could work in his side's favour.

"There would not be the history of having tough tours here, so all the boys are very excited and keen about playing in the Caribbean," he said.

"Even the atmosphere on Tuesday at Montego Bay in our warm-up match, the boys just really enjoyed playing in front of the crowds that were so vociferous and excitable.

"The boys are really excited about playing in the West Indies. They all heard stories form other players about playing here, they have watched it on television, and heard about it on radio, and heard about some of the greats of the West Indies game.

"So it's a great opportunity for them to come and play at some of these grounds about which they have only heard, so they are really looking forward to this series."

Dravid noted that his side was similar to the West Indies in one particular way. They were trying to create a bit of flexibility in the ODI side to cement India's position in the top etchelons of the game.

"We have used our players in quite different positions, and we see that as a good opportunity for them to grasp the different requirements of the game," he said.

"We have used people like Irfan Pathan to open the batting. It may also be a good idea to use our openers at five or six for them to get an idea what it is to play when the fielders are spread out, and gives them an opportunity to learn how to play the spinners and rotate the strike.

"We are looking to give our players exposure to different challenges at different times in the ODI game, and is something we will be looking to develop and continue."


West Indies (from): Brian Lara (captain), Carlton Baugh Jr., Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Corey Collymore, Fidel Edwards, Christopher Gayle, Dave Mohammed, Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor.

India (from): Rahul Dravid (captain), Ajit Agarkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mohammed Kaif, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Ramesh Powar, Suresh Raina, Venugopal Rao, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Shantha Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Asad Rauf, TV Replays: Billy Doctrove, Reserve: Norman Malcolm.

Match Referee: Chris Broad.

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