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Upbeat India hope to slay champions

Dhaka: “Whoever beats India will win the #T20WC”, tweeted former England captain Michael Vaughan after India’s stupendous performance against Pakistan.

From the dark alleys following the disasters in South Africa and New Zealand, and the early exit from the Asia Cup, Friday night has shown that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. There’s hope and there’s expectation, too.

That the Indians haven’t started the tournament with all the momentum of a gridlocked Dhaka traffic has surely come as a blessing. Suddenly there seems to be a spring in their steps and a sense of strong belief prevails in the ranks.

Be it because of Sunil Gavaskar’s vitriol or their desperation to prove their worth, the whole team turned up for Saturday’s practice in the afternoon, just 16 hours after playing a match.

There was no let-up in intensity as full-fledged nets followed the nearly hour-long football session.

Dhoni batted for a quite a while at nets after a knocking session while Ravichandran Ashwin had a long stint against the left-handers keeping in mind the Chris Gayle factor. Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja also showed no signs of relaxing.

As the strains of Tu hi meri shab hai, from the film Gangster, played in the Indian dugout reverberated across the expanse of the practice arena, there was no sign of any undue importance being given to the West Indies on Sunday. But this match between the ODI champions and the T20 champions is sure to have huge implications on the outcome of the tournament.

“We don’t need to change our approach. We will go out there and play positive cricket. We have done well in the last couple of T20s. We need to control our gameplan and control our emotions,” Suresh Raina summed up the mood in the camp.

West Indies appear cautious. “I don’t think any team is an easy opponent. India started off on a winning note and most likely will have a lot of confidence going into the game. We know what we are capable of doing… The guys are confident that we will come good once we play to our full potential,” said Darren Sammy.

The defending champions, who look a good bet to become the first team to win the World T20 on successive occasions, are not just relying on Gayle to give their team a flying start. If the Gayle-Dwayne Smith opening combination doesn’t click, there’s Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Ravi Rampaul to fall back on, not to mention Sammy.

The elements could also play its part. It rained here in the evening on Saturday, and if the forecast holds true, there might be thundershowers on Sunday, too. Gayle, though, isn’t unknown to these conditions. He has played in the Bangladesh Premier League for two years and has two centuries in six matches at this very ground in Mirpur. More threatening is the fact that those innings included 38 sixes.

This piece of statistics could have prompted Raina to take a dig at the West Indies. “West Indies will be a totally different team as they have a lot of players who can hit sixes… But they don’t have an idea about how to rotate the strike against spinners by taking singles and twos,” said Raina.

A little later Sammy countered Raina’s views. “We don’t care much about what Raina thinks. If he thinks we are only six hitters, then stop us from hitting sixes,” said the West Indies captain.

Stopping the West Indies batsmen’s pyrotechnics will be a big challenge for the Indian spinners. Mishra will have to battle it out in the crucial middle and slog overs. Ditto for Ashwin, who is likely to open the bowling again.

For a leg-spinner, Mishra has been in tremendous control and shown boldness in giving the ball air even when the batsman is on the rampage. His excellent economy rate of 5.37 portrays his effectiveness in this format.

West Indies will also expect Samuel Badree to show the same effectiveness if he opens the bowling again.

“Spin has been a big part of T20 cricket, not just in Bangladesh. So Badree could make a big impact,” felt Sammy. For the record, West Indies enjoy a 2-1 advantage in this format against India. Can they dent India’s new-found self-belief? Will Vaughan’s words prove to be prophetic? Wait for a few hours!

TEAMS

India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami

West Indies (likely): Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Samuels, Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree

Match starts: 7 pm (IST)