Port of Spain, Jun 4: It is time now for India to test its bench strength against a team whose predecessors in the 70s and 80s were the benchmarks in World Cricket. How the times have changed. This will be the 200th T20 international game and very much like the 200th ODI match, the oppositions are same but what has changed is their reputation. India who were the underdogs then, upset West Indies in that fateful match in the Prudential World Cup 1983 and set the tempo for a historical feat.
Today they are arguably the best cricket team on earth and are up against the once formidable West Indies team, who are now no better than any other minnows in the cricketing fraternity. Yet there is a semblance of fight in the contest, as India will be fielding a second-string side against the Calypso kings.
While West Indies will have a few old names in their new set-up sans Chris Gayle and co, India will have almost everybody new, a new captain, a new coach and not to mention new players. Suresh Raina's leadership in the tour is not a stop-gap arrangement as many would like to believe, his tenure will also serve as an assessment for the selectors to take a stock of M S Dhoni's successor, as and when he decides to hang his boot as the Indian skipper.
Fletcher, too will be assessed by the amount of success he gathers with this young and unheralded team, as it will give an insight as to how can he perform once the cream of India's experienced players decide to call it quits, probably after one last shot against Australia when the tour Down Under later this year.
The first choice XI for India, will most probably be comprised of two spinners with R Ashwin, almost out of contention as conventional wisdom suggest against playing two off-spinners in the same line-up. In that case Amit Mishra will be the preferred choice.
Likely India XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel (wk), Suresh Raina (capt), Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Amit Mishra/Ishant Sharma
West Indies on the other hand will be buoyant after putting up a fighting performance against the Pakistanis and would more or less go with the same combination as the one they played in their ODI of the recently concluded ODI series.
Likely West Indies XI: Lendl Simmons, Andre Fletcher (wk), Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Danza Hyatt, Darren Sammy (capt), Christopher Barnwell, Andre Russell, Ashley Nurse, Devendra Bishoo, Ravi Rampaul
Indian batsmen would do well to remember the threat posed by Ravi Rampaul, who bowled his heart out in the match against them in the World Cup. Though most of the batsmen in the squad were not a part of that match, they would still do well as he appears the most potent of the West Indies bowlers.
In the batting department, Chris Gayle absence for a T20 game is baffling as he can single-handedly change a game's course like the way he did in the just concluded Indian Premier League. But there is the young Darren Bravo whose batting is without an iota of doubt a clear replication of the way Brian Charles Lara batted. He is an obvious danger for the Indian bowling unit.
There are no clear favourites for the match, but it seems India might just have their nose ahead, albeit marginally because of the presence of four players from the squad that won them the World Cup.