| West Indies captain Carl Hooper and Vasbert Drakes at practice in Vadodara on Sunday. (Reuters)
Vadodara: The deluge of runs that has characterised the on-going India-West Indies one-day series is unlikely to subside as the teams go into the crucial fifth match at the IPCL Stadium here Monday.
The captains are unanimous that there is virtually nothing for bowlers on tracks designed for tall scores, but still, the momentum seems to have swung back in favour of the Indians. Winning successive matches despite having conceded 300 and 324, after all, is a strong morale-booster.
Sourav Ganguly, though, is trying to underplay the psychological advantage angle. “It’s not easy to chase 300-odd scores even on good batting tracks. But the series is still wide open,” said the India captain.
Sourav’s Caribbean counterpart also sounded upbeat. “It’s nice to be poised at 2-2, with three matches to go. We are positive and think we can beat them,” quipped Carl Hooper.
Even under circumstances which make the bat a weapon overwhelmingly superior to the ball, the home team is going to try out a greenhorn who specialises in delivering with the latter.
Lakshmipathy Balaji, the Tamil Nadu new-ball operator, will cut his teeth in the big league at the expense of Ashish Nehra, confirmed the Indian captain. The 20-year-old worked up a good pace during morning nets, though just speed is unlikely to help him make a mark on the big stage, considering the conditions.
There will be nothing from the wicket for speedsters relying on help from the surface and the ability to make the ball move in the air appears to be the only way of putting batsmen under some pressure.
“We are trying to keep the surface as dry as possible so that it doesn’t assist lateral movement. The bounce will be even, batsmen will have a ball once again. But there is some grass on the surface, which will help bowlers get some carry in the early hours,” BCCI West Zone pitch committee chief Dhiraj Parsana told The Telegraph.
“Overall, the story is unlikely to be different from what it’s been so far in this series. It’s a wicket full of runs. That’s how we want things to be in one-dayers,” the one-time India player revealed.
While the Indians are certain about the combination they are going to try out, the visitors are finding it difficult to decide upon their best possible XI. The prolonged tour is taking its toll on players and Marlon Samuels appears a doubtful starter while Mervyn Dillon seems worse off.
Struggling with a shoulder injury, Dillon skipped practice totally on the match-eve and, in all probability, will not make it to the final XI. Samuels was put under special medical observation. Vasbert Drakes, however, seems to have recovered and is likely to play.
If Samuels doesn’t finally make it, his slot will go to Ricardo Powell, since Ryan Hinds — the other specialist batsman among reserves — has been ruled out with what appears to be a rather serious injury sustained while substituting as fielder in the Ahmedabad match.
With the pitch promising to hold true for the full quota of 100 overs, the toss appears to have assumed too much importance, as both teams prefer chasing to be the better option. That’s how and when they have won, so far, in this series.
“A lot is being debated over whether to bat or bowl on winning the toss. I think it comes down to how a team responds to the pressure that is going to be there. The team that copes better with that stands a better chance,” said Hooper.
Sourav didn’t have much different to offer. “It’s difficult to set a gameplan in one-dayers. Factors like toss and the way things keep changing must also be taken into account.”
Under these conditions, the team boasting better slower bowlers should fare better as less pace will make stroke-making that much difficult. India look better in that department with Harbhajan Singh realising that the amount of pace he takes off his deliveries the more his chances of succeeding are.
Even Murali Kartik showed that he is aware of the task in the previous match in Ahmedabad.
Another battle of bats is there on the cards, and the proficiency in the slow bowling department will hold the key once more.
India: Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Jawagal Srinath, L. Balaji.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels/Ricardo Powell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Carl Hooper, Ridley Jacobs, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Vasbert Drakes, Pedro Collins, Mervyn Dillon/Corey Colleymore/Cameron Cuffy.
Umpires: Asoka De Silva, A. Jayaprakash.
Third umpire: V.K. Ramaswamy.
Match starts at 9 am.
The West Indies, meanwhile, have been fined five per cent of their match fees for slow bowling over-rate in the fourth ODI against India played in Ahmedabad Friday.
Informing this, Match Referee Mike Procter clarified that it was his decision to call off the players when crowd disturbance brought things to an abrupt halt at the third game in Rajkot.