Yes, the limited-overs leg against Windies is more or less a dress rehearsal for India, with one eye on the Australia tour leading up to the 2019 World Cup. And the team can afford to feel this way because they are that good. So, will Team India sweat enough against Windies so as to not bleed against the Aussies at home? The answer is a plain and simple NO.
After a lacklustre Test series which was done and dusted in a matter of six days, it was expected that the Windies would give the Men in Blue some a tough fight in LOIs. They are the World T20 champions after all. But by fielding a substandard team, the Windies have fallen short of expectations yet again.
The first Test at Rajkot was greeted with empty stands and a handful of spectators in the name of home support. The conditions improved at Hyderabad only after the BCCI allowed school students to enter the stadium for free.
After Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis has also pulled out of the India tour, citing 'personal’ reasons. Both these players tour all across the world to feature in T20 leagues but have made themselves unavailable for the India tour. Chris Gayle most recently seen smashing sixes in the Afghanistan Premier League.
With all due respect, will spectators be keen on watching the likes of Fabian Allen, Obed McCoy, Oshane Thomas, Khary Pierre, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell and Sherfane Rutherford in action? Those following various domestic T20 leagues may still have heard of these names but the masses remain largely unaware of their exploits. Any wonder then that the viewership both physical and on TV is shrinking?
One must not forget that India are coming off a 2-1 defeat against England in ODIs. Although the team bagged the Asia Cup, both of the last two matches went right down to the wire against sides like Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Therefore, the team not only needs preparation for the longer format prior to the Australia tour but for the shorter format as well. The middle order is yet to be fixed. Pacers other than Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are yet to be decided. The backup all-rounder for Hardik Pandya also remains a question. This calls for trying out new players and testing them on the vigorous international stage.
However, these players can't certainly be tested against this Windies attack. It is utterly unjust to the players featuring in a series such as this. If you perform well, people say, 'Ah! it was just Windies'. If for some reason you fail, people say, 'Oh! he failed even against Windies. How will he perform against the bigger boys’?
For instance, Rishabh Pant is all set to make his ODI debut in the 1st ODI. If he slams a century, would you value that saying that it has come against an international attack or sideline it from consideration for the future series? It makes for quite a dicey situation.
The Indian team has been announced for just the first two ODIs. If Windies fail to put up enough fight in these two matches, it would not come as a surprise if following the Asia Cup lay off, Kohli takes some time off again to blood in some youngsters.
If the ODI series turns out to be as mundane as the Tests, you would be left wondering the purpose behind this 40-45 day home season which once used to be exhilarating.
Updated Windies ODI squad: Jason Holder (Captain), Fabian Allen Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Obed McCoy, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels and Oshane Thomas.
Updated Windies T20I squad: Carlos Brathwaite (Captain), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Obed McCoy, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Khary Pierre, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Sherfane Rutherford and Oshane Thomas.
India squad (for first two ODIs): Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, KL Rahul
The crowd at Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati was considerably higher than that in the Test matches. As the match progressed, the sun set and India came in to bat, the crowd grew in numbers to such an extent that the stadium was almost full by 7:00 p.m IST.
The fact noticeable here is that the Barsapara Cricket Stadium has seen just two international matches till now. The inaugural match was played between India and Australia which was a T20 in October 2017. Now, almost one year later, people of Guwahati have got their second international match in the form of an ODI between India and Windies.
Here lies the catch for the BCCI: to take the game to venues where the people do not get to see a lot of international cricket and advance further in tier three and tier four cities as with IPL, the market in the metros has become almost saturated.
©Cricket World 2018