India aim to end Caribbean trip on a high
Roseau (Dominica): Out of form young batsmen seem to be India`s only concern as they aim to sign off their Caribbean sojourn on a high by clinching the third and final cricket Test against the West Indies, starting on Wednesday.
The Indians, leading the three-match series 1-0, may have to make some changes to their batting line-up on a Windsor Park track which is expected to offer pace and bounce.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has ensured a continuation of his unbeaten record in a Test series but he would have to take a call if Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli are to get yet another chance after their disastrous outings so far in the Caribbean.
The two already have the writing on the wall as they haven`t been picked for the series against England, starting in mid-July.
While Vijay has hurt his position with an aggregate of 22 runs (5.50 avg) from the four innings of two matches, Kohli has done no better than 46 runs (11.50) and is only now realising the vast chasm between a limited overs and a longer format game.
Vijay`s nemesis has been Ravi Rampaul who has got him in all the four innings while Kohli has found Fidel Edwards too hot to handle, having been dismissed by the Barbadian in three of the four innings he has batted.
India needs their replacement as the West Indies` new ball bowlers have had the complete measure of these two young batsmen.
Thus Parthiv Patel and Subramaniam Badrinath can fancy their chances in the final Test if Dhoni prefers to reshuffle his cards.
Both Patel and Badrinath have had little batting since the one-day series ended, more so with the Chennai batsman who wasn`t picked for the last ODI in Jamaica and has been out of action for three weeks.
Interestingly, the choice is not as straightforward as it seems. Badrinath played two Tests against South Africa at home 16 months ago and aggregated a meagre 63 runs (21.00 avg), having been claimed by speedster Dale Steyn in two of his three innings.
Patel has played just 20 Tests since first turning out for India against England at Trent Bridge nine seasons ago. He last played a Test against Sri Lanka three years ago.
His career statistics of 683 runs (29.70) aren`t too pretty either. But such has been the disintegration of Vijay and Kohli that Dhoni would be tempted to replace them, more so since the pitch for the final Test could again have his batsmen`s trial by fire.
If Dhoni persists with Vijay and Kohli, with the realisation that they are better bets for future than either Patel or Badrinath, he would have no such hesitation in replacing Abhimanyu Mithun with Munaf Patel who himself hasn`t played a Test for over two years, despite his limited overs heroics this year.
West Indies, if anything, are in a bigger batting mess than India.
While India has turned to experienced Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to bail them out in the two Tests, West Indies haven`t had such luck with Ramnaresh Sarwan who has been left out in favour of Kieron Powell.
So West Indies must have a batting replacement of Sarwan (29 runs at 7.25 avg), if not of opener Lendl Simmons who too has been all at sea against Indian pacers, having made 46 at 11.50. His performance is completely at odds to what he did in the preceding one-day series (177 runs at 35.40 avg).
Kirk Edwards and Kieran Powell are two youngsters waiting in the wings. The former has the reputation to bat for long hours and the latter an attacking young colt – qualities which are presently sorely missing in the present West Indian batting line-up.
There is little else that West Indies can do though there is a general perception that Kemar Roach, widely regarded as the fastest of all, would be a better bet than someone like skipper Darren Sammy, especially given the pitches on offer.
India are hoping that two of its key members hit their strides in this Test.
Dhoni, despite two wrong decisions awarded against him, has only 23 runs at 5.75 average from the series, and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is still two short of his 400-wicket haul, having claimed five wickets at 35.60 average from the two Tests.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels and Lendl Simmons.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt-wk), Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay, Parthiv Patel, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and Richard Kettleborough (England)
The match will start at 7.30 p.m Indian Standard Time (IST).