| Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. (AFP)
Kuala Lumpur: Camps, rolling or otherwise, are a thing of the past. For Team India, the real action begins Thursday — against the West Indies, a team which won the last bilateral one-day series 4-1, and on a wicket which was damp on match-eve.
The West Indies’ defeat in the DLF Cup opener notwithstanding, the Indians’ task actually is cut out. Captain Rahul Dravid acknowledged as much: “We’ll have to play at the top of our game... We’ve got to hit the ground running hard...”
Without getting into specifics, he said the “best XI” would be fielded, implying no fancy experiments would be attempted.
To an extent, Dravid did show concern over the Kinrara Oval wicket (different from Tuesday’s one). “I wouldn’t like to bat first if it remains damp... One can’t say how it’s going to look at the toss, because it will be exposed to the sun tomorrow... The wicket has cracks, too.”
Dravid didn’t see much of match No.1, where world champions Australia won big, but remarked: “The Australians must have played very well to come back in the manner they did... Obviously, the West Indies couldn’t build on their opening partnership...”
Not one to concede psychological points, Dravid insisted the 1-4 loss in the West Indies (in May) “wasn’t playing” on his players’ minds. “To be honest, that was a while back and one moves on... Moreover, there was a Test series after the ODIs and we did well...”
He accepted Yuvraj Singh would be missed. “He’s a very important player and a very successful one... He has been a crucial finisher for us, but his absence will give somebody a chance... Hopefully, somebody else is going to take the finisher’s responsibility...”
[Board secretary Niranjan Shah told The Telegraph that Yuvraj, who had to stay back on account of illness, is arriving Thursday morning. “It’s confirmed... He’s coming from New Delhi.”]
Captain Brian Lara didn’t interact with the Media, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul did. No surprise that he spoke about Sachin Tendulkar: “We all know what he’s capable of, but the wicket may not be easy...”
Chanderpaul is, of course, hoping the ball rolls the West Indies’ way. “Every win will help us as we’re on the down...” The former captain top-scored with 92 in the opener, but felt the wicket was such one could’ve been dismissed at any time.
All 14 are available for selection and there’s speculation that Marlon Samuels could get a look-in.
Incidentally, the last time both Sachin and Lara featured in the same ODI was over four years ago and, so, much of the attention has to be on them. With a blast and foul weather scrapping two tournaments in Sri Lanka last month, the Kinrara Oval face-off is to mark Sachin’s comeback after six months.
While on Sachin, he and Harbhajan Singh are the only ‘survivors’ from the Indian squad (captained by Ajay Jadeja) which came to Kuala Lumpur for the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
That was a different competition, not that the Indians took home any medal, but with the Champions Trophy just weeks away, a best-foot-forward performance is absolutely imperative.
Hopefully, once the Indians are on the park, the turnout is going to get handsome. On Tuesday, hardly anybody thought it fit to put in an appearance. In any case, the distance is a deterrent of sorts.
India (from): Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Dwayne Bravo, Wavell Hinds, Dwayne Smith, Carlton Baugh, Ian Bradshaw, Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards, Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels, Corey Collymore.
Umpires: Mark Benson, Tony Hill. TV: Asad Rauf.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Match starts: Noon (IST).