West Indies will look to repeat Kochi performance where it raised memories of glory days
After the exploits of Kochi, they must have rekindled some fond memories among the gray-haired fans of West Indies cricket from the 60s and 70s.
‘Caribbean charmers’ was a flawed description of what, at best, was a destructive force. Oppositions were crushed and crushed consistently.
Yet, West Indies was the most sought after team, commanding a high fee, ruling world cricket with its aggressive brand of cricket, entertaining when not bowling, giving the game a new dimension and direction.
Shades of that old world charm, not the romance that marked the cricket of the three Ws (Worrell, Weekes and Walcott), but the sheer professionalism that the likes of Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards brought to the middle, were noticed in the thunderous victory in the first ODI of the current series.
The complacent Indians were swept off their feet and left deeply embarrassed, something they have come to encounter and absorb quite frequently in recent times.
Nothing worked for India; neither the home conditions, nor the tumultuous state of the opposition, scalded by long-standing pay related issues. The West Indians remained remarkably impervious to the extraneous challenges that confronted them on the eve of the series.
Someone they trusted seemed to have let them down but the players stayed calm and channelised their strength to their advantage.
The team found its hero in Marlon Samuels, who had his heroes in Lloyd and Richards. And India suffered, as it would when Lloyd and Richards, top draw stroke-makers, flayed them mercilessly nearly three decades ago.
West Indies is often described as an unpredictable side, capable of frittering away winning positions.
The best teams can experience such low moments that occur more in limited-over cricket. Not that India was in a position to dictate in the last contest at Kochi but there was a distinct lethargy and shocking indifference in the manner in which some batsmen got out, Ambati Rayudu in particular.
The bowlers were no different as they sprayed the ball and pursued a poor line of attack. Mohit Sharma, Amit Mishra and Mohammad Shami were clobbered by Samuels, whose domineering knock exposed the Indian attack. And not for the first time!
The stiff target then bared the lack of depth in the batting camp with Virat Kohli a sore sight, perishing in a style so starkly close to his dismissals on the English tour this summer.
When Sunil Gavaskar reckons he has some technical issues that beg rectification, then Kohli is on a difficult pitch.
Playing at home may be a comforting thought for this talented run-getter, but he needs to match the faith reposed in him with deeds that justify his reputation in world cricket.
His list of failures is a serious cause of concern for the Indian camp in view of the upcoming World Cup.
The Kotla is likely to present a run-feast on Saturday if one believes the curator.
Old-timers in the galleries would remember one shot that Richards produced on a cold December day in a Test, only his second, here in 1974.
The ball was dispatched to the adjacent Ambedkar Stadium as he stepped out majestically to a spinner.
The audience stood enraptured, for Richards had produced a one-day-like knock (192 not out) in a five-day contest. Those were the heady days of West Indies cricket.
Kochi saw snatches of them. And West Indies did not even miss Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine, the two most appealing characters of contemporary world cricket.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (capt. & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Murali Vijay and Kuldeep Yadav.
West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (capt.), Darren Bravo, Jason Holder, Leon Johnson, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor and Sulieman Benn.
Match officials: Umpires: Ian Gould and S. Ravi.
Third umpire: C. Shamsuddin. Fourth umpire: Rajesh Deshpande.
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.
Play starts at 2.30 p.m.