Ahmedabad: The cricket caravan is carrying a consistent dose of big and quick runs. Come Friday, and the Cotton City will get a chance to taste its share of the run-feast in the first match to be played under lights at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium.
The on-going series has cared little about notions that bowlers or even catches win matches. It has been batsmen, batsmen and batsmen all the way in the first three games. The fourth match of the series between India and the West Indies is once again likely to witness another high-scoring affair unless the willow-wielders have a day off.
While the rival skippers can be reasonably glad with the performance of their batsmen, both kept their teammates and followers under some uncertainty till late Thursday evening.
Sourav Ganguly skipped nets before flying in late from Calcutta while Carl Hooper said he is still to decide whether he will return to action after skipping the previous game with a knee injury.
Rahul Dravid, stepping in for Sourav at the media conference, said the Rajkot fiasco was a morale-booster for India nonetheless, since it brought them within a match of drawing level the seven-match series. “Chasing 300 and doing well is encouraging. But the Caribbeans have showed that we will have to do really well to beat them.”
While Dravid said he was in no position to comment on the composition of the team, there is a possibility that Murali Kartik will make his second ODI appearance replacing Ajit Agarkar from the Rajkot XI. India, in that case, will go in with two spinners and seamers apiece with J.P. Yadav around to share the fifth bowler’s load alongside Virender Sehwag and Sourav himself.
Yadav, as of now, looks the stranger in the team, who has been included as an allrounder but rarely gets the chance to bat or even bowl. In the two matches he has played so far, he has bowled a total of six overs and got a duck in his only stint with the bat.
Though the team thinktank rightly feels he deserves a longer run, the option of strengthening the batting further by bringing in Dinesh Mongia may prove tempting. The Punjab left-hander can chip in with a few overs of spin and has shown in the past that he can produce some good shots in a quiet and unassuming manner.
India have drifted from the ploy of fielding seven specialist batsmen which won them laurels and matches in England and Colombo in recent times. They are looking for a seam-bowling allrounder, keeping the World Cup in South Africa in mind, but are yet to unearth one who meets the demand.
There aren’t too many opportunities left to experiment before the big event, they should remember, and also assess the wisdom of the decision to bring in a pinch-hitter at the expense of the specialist batsmen losing out on their share of the strike. The exclusion of Agarkar from the squad suggests the Indians have started thinking in these lines.
The visitors have not shown any inclination for such moves and let their batsmen do the talking on friendly, placid wickets. They are enjoying the conditions and putting together big scores without any significant contribution from Hooper, but the Caribbeans will do well to remember that they have rarely delivered the knockout punch overseas with some consistency in recent times.
Barring Hooper, all of their top-order batsmen have been among the runs since the third Test in Calcutta, but it’s premature to suggest they are the favourites to clinch the one-day series. Simply because this lot has not achieved anything as big as yet.
Both Dravid and Hooper met the media before surveying the Sardar Patel Stadium strip, but BCCI pitch committee member Dhiraj Parsana prdicted a not-too-different surface. “It’s a hard wicket and batting won’t be too difficult, but there may be some turn in the second half. I think it’s going to be a 500-run affair,” said Parsana, one of those who supervised the pitch preparation here.
India: Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, J.P. Yadav, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Murali Kartik, Ashish Nehra.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Carl Hooper/Ricardo Powell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Vasbert Drakes, Mervyn Dillon, Cameron Cuffy.
Umpires: Asoka de Silva and K. Hariharan. Third umpire: I. Sivaram.
n ODIs hard on bowlers, feels Dravid, on Page 18