Onus on Men in Blue to keep ODI series alive

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Port of Spain:India face the daunting task of staying alive in the series when they take on the West Indies in the fourth One-day to be played here tomorrow.

The visitors squandered the first match victory advantage as the West Indies clawed back to win the next couple of games and they now lead the five-match series 2-1 and the Men in Blue must win tomorrow to keep the series alive.

Yuvraj Singh practised at the Queen's Park Oval here and his fitness would come as good news for the Indians who have relied heavily on the southpaw to deliver finishing punches in the last one year.

Yuvraj missed the third ODI due to back spasms after scoring masterly 93 in the second match. A final decision on him will be taken only tomorrow morning. However, the team management is pretty hopeful that Yuvraj would be able to play.

The series also puts the Greg Chappell- Rahul Dravid combination under scanner. The coach and skipper have combined well to set up a series of Indian wins in the shorter version of the game, which also includes a record string of 17 successful run chases.

But the run has already been broken in the second ODI in Jamaica and after winning the third One-day, the West Indies looks to have the upper hand in the series.

That most of the recent Indian wins have come on the Indian sub-continent brings enough criticism that the victories have come on home or similar conditions. Chappell realises well that a win tomorrow would quell some of the searing doubts but he also says that injuries to key players in the series have hampered his plans.

India missed the services of Yuvraj, S Sreesanth and Ramesh Powar at various points in the series due to fitness problems.

''Some of the main players have been unavailable for selection (due to injuries) but I don't see that as an excuse. We have to make do with whatever we have got and whoever we have got. We have a plan and I am sure we would come good,'' said Chappell.

Chappell also gave credit to the West Indies team for back-to-back wins and said that nothing could be taken away from them.

''They have played really well until now. I think the series win against Zimbabwe did a world of good to their confidence and they have been really pulling off victories,'' said Chappell.

He, however, sees a silverlining for India in the reversal of West Indies fortunes.

''It has turned to be a tough series and we needed tough matches. It throws up lots of challenge, particularly to the younger players. It would be good to see how the team reacts and takes up the challenge of winning here,'' he added. The track at the Queen's Park Oval looks hard and dry. Chief curator Shekhar Mano, who has been working hard on the pitch, feels that the pitch would have something for both the bowlers and the batsmen.

''It's going to offer good bounce and carry. Even the spinners will get good bounce, though not much turn for them is at the offings, he said.

The whole square was re-laid seven months back and since then only one ODI has been played. The match between West Indies and Zimbabwe turned out to be low scoring one and the pitch was criticised for being low and slow.

Meanwhile, Chappell is relieved to see Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif back among runs. Yuvraj should select himself if fully fit and that means Venugopal Rao would have to sit out.

On the other hand, there is a new found spring in the West Indies players' strides as they took on to the field after the wins.

Captain Brian Lara is determined to seal the series here. Lara has also hinted that these two matches could be his last in Trinidad and Tobago and so he would like to finish on a winning note.

West Indies don't play any match here until the World Cup gets over next year and Lara has hinted at quitting at least One-day cricket after that.

West Indies, meanwhile, have made two changes in their squad for the last two ODIs against India. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Runako Morton make way for Wavell Hinds and Sewnarine Chattergoon.

Chanderpaul is ruled out to play due to a pull in left hamstring while Runako Morton was dropped for poor form.

Squads (From):

India: Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid (capt) Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, Venugopal Rao, MS Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Ramesh Powar, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, S Sreesanth, R P Singh, Munaf Patel.

West Indies: Brian Lara (capt), Chris Gayle, Sewnarine Chattergoon, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo, Carlton Baugh (wk), Corey Collymore, Fidel Edwards, Jerome Taylor, Ian Bradshaw, Dave Mohammed.

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