Indian tour of West Indies could be path-breaking

Last Updated: Thu, Jun 02, 2011 14:02 hrs

​A depleted touring side could be asking for trouble when they play abroad but there is every reason to believe that the under strength Indian team which Suresh Raina leads in the Caribbean will come up trumps in the series of limited overs matches that commence with the only Twenty20 international on Saturday.

That the Indian bench strength is strong has been proved time and again. So often in the recent past has the Indian team been hit by injuries to senior players and every time the young replacements have risen to the occasion both in Tests and in limited overs cricket.

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The ensuing tour again gives adequate opportunities to the bench strength to come good and there is the general feeling that the Indians will emerge triumphant against a none too strong West Indian side. In the absence of several key players headed by Chris Gayle, the home team themselves are a pretty depleted side. Their bench strength is not as strong as that of the Indians who will be keen to avenge the 4-1 loss they suffered in the ODI series on the last visit five years ago. That of course was against a much stronger home team.

This time the West Indies are taking on India immediately after a shared two-Test series against Pakistan which came on top of a five-match ODI series which the visitors won 3-2. Even with literally a second string side, the Indians have it in them to win the contest. Even if for some reason they don't, the tour presents the perfect platform for the youngsters to show that they are ready to stand in the shoes of the seniors whenever they call it a day. From that viewpoint the tour has the makings of a path-breaking one.

The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh cannot go on forever. The withdrawal of the senior players gave the opportunity to the selectors to look ahead and plan for the future and that is what they have done.

In batting and bowling India have an admirable second line of defence and there is no reason for anxiety. Under normal circumstances it should be a cause for worry with some regulars being in their mid and late 30s and even if they are quite irreplaceable it is heartening to know that there are young players around with a good deal of class, skill and experience.

Dhoni, Sehwag and Tendulkar were not in the original limited overs squad and once Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh had to withdraw citing injury, all interest centered around their replacements. In naming Shikar Dhawan and Manoj Tiwari the selectors have acknowledged talent, technique and domestic form which is the correct way to go about it.

And in elevating Suresh Raina to the captaincy in place of Gambhir the selectors have shown a good deal of foresight for the left handed batsmen has always displayed leadership qualities. A pugnacious batsman and a fierce competitor - very much in keeping with the game today in which no quarter is asked for and none given - Raina should have little difficulty in making a success of the role. Partly this will also be because he has a balanced squad.

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The World Cup champions and the No 2 ranked ODI side in the world should get the better of the West Indies, currently ranked No 8, even if they are playing away from home. The first eleven should revolve around Raina, Ashwin, Badrinath, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Parthiv Patel, Munaf Patel Yusuf Pathan and Praveen Kumar. Even in the absence of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Zaheer, it does look like a side that will be hard to beat.

As far as the West Indies are concerned, they will be hoping that in the absence of Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo will be able to live up to their reputation in the ODIs. The absence of these three from the T20 line-up makes their task that much more difficult even if the format remains a bit of a lottery. 

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