PREVIEW: Fearless Windies enter Dehli battle zone

Delhi, India, CMC/IANS – West Indies are confident of playing competitively when their tour of India opens on Sunday with the first Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium here.

First ball is 9.30 am (12 midnight Eastern Caribbean Time/11 pm Saturday Jamaica Time).

The Windies are riding high on a Test series win on foreign soil for the first time in eight years, following their successful trip to Bangladesh, where they won both Test and One-day International series.

This series – the first full tour to India for nine years – will be their toughest under Darren Sammy, but head coach Ottis Gibson said the Bangladesh series helped his side prepare well and get acclimatised to conditions on the sub-continent.

“We had a good series against Bangladesh,” he said. “We now know what to expect here. We have played outstanding cricket in the last 12 months and hopefully we will carry on the good work.”

The last time West Indies visited India for Tests, they lost a three-Test series 2-0 under the leadership of Carl Hooper, following an innings and 112-run loss in the first Test in Mumbai and an eight-wicket defeat in Chennai before hundreds from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Wavell Hinds and Marlon Samuels helped them to draw the final Test.

West Indies are rebuilding and there are signs of a recovery, having pushed the Indians all the way in 0-1 home defeat in JuneJ and July.

Gibson said the mood in the dressing room has changed after the series victory in Bangladesh.

“The talk in our dressing room has been that of development,” said Gibson. “We have started to build. We are a developing side, a young side and the atmosphere is positive. A lot of young players are doing well. We expect a tough fight, but we are ready for it.”

Gibson said the biggest challenge for West Indies will be to bowl out the top-six in the Indian batting line-up consistently.

The Indian top-order is expected to be at full strength, unlike their previous Test series in England, when they failed miserably, and is set to comprise Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh.

“We have a good pace attack,” said Gibson. “India also have a comparatively young bowling unit, but the batting order is heavily loaded.

“Their top six batsmen are experienced and the challenge for us will be to bowl against them. Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul have been bowling well and we also have a good spinner in Devendra Bishoo.

“We played on similar pitches in Bangladesh and our bowlers are capable of doing well again. We have to rely on our skills. We have got better with every match.”
Bishoo will be a key component to the West Indies attack in the series. With the pitches unlikely to favour the fast bowlers, he will have to bowl a lot of overs.

The leg-spinner, who celebrates his 25th birthday on Sunday was named the ICC’s Emerging Player-of-the-Year in September. He proved to the Indians during the series in Caribbean that he can mix it up, but foreign spinners – including the World’s best Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne – have not done well because India’s batsmen are literally at home.

Gibson however, backed Bishoo, whose maiden five-wicket haul bowled West Indies to their series-clinching victory in Bangladesh.

“We have to stand up to the challenge the Indian (batting) line-up will pose and Bishoo has a major role to play,” the coach said.

“He just has to back his ability, believe in himself. Obviously, he is a very talented bowler. He has already got 32 wickets in seven games in Test cricket and he started playing Test cricket in May this year.”

Gibson added: “He is still very new to international cricket and is learning all the time. The good thing about him is that he is always prepared to learn.
“If he sees somebody he thinks can pass on some information that would benefit him, he’s not afraid to ask questions. That’s all you ask really from young cricketers.

“He has retained the passion to learn. He is improving all the time. He loves the game. We are very happy to have someone of his ability and hopefully he will play a major part in this series.”

Batting however, will decide the outcome of the series. In this regard, West Indies fall way short in this department opposed to the hosts and their ability to deal with Indian’s spin threat will be crucial to the level of success they achieve.

Gibson felt the absence of champion off-spinner Harbhajan Singh might hurt the Indian team.

“Harbhajan is such an experienced bowler,” he said. “He has taken so many wickets. But Ravichandran Ashwin has done well in ODIs so he can be dangerous.

“When a youngster is picked, many think that he may not be ready, but the selectors must have felt that he is ready. Since it could be his first Test match, he would look to prove himself.”

West Indies’ batting in the second Test gave a hint that the batsmen may be coming to terms with coping with spin bowling, but they are still a very inexperienced side with a top order that is not likely to boast of more than 20 Tests between them, so Chanderpaul and Samuels will have plenty responsibility.

The series promises to be engrossing with West Indies looking to prove that they are moving forward and India looking to put to rest the aberration of their failed summer in India.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh, Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shivanrine Chanderpaul, Darren Bravo, Fidel Edwards, Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Shane Shillingford
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Varun Aaron, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, V.V.S. Laxman, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane,Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Umesh Yadav
Umpires: Rod Tucker, Kumar Dharmasena
ICC Match referee: Jeff Crowe

Fri, 11/04/2011 - 17:31