Bridgetown, Barbados, June 3: India bears little resemblance to the side which won the World Cup in April, as most of the biggest stars are absent for the limited-overs leg of the West Indies tour that begins on Saturday with a one-off Twenty20.
India has only six of the 15-member squad that rejoiced in Mumbai two months ago, in the Caribbean. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan are the most notable absentees.
West Indies is also hit by the absence of star players with yet another clash between the West Indies Cricket Board and the players' union on the horizon. Former skippers Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, like they were before Pakistan's recent tour, are still offside with the board.
India isn't short of captains, either. Left-handed batsman Suresh Raina, who forced his way into the India team only late in the World Cup, has been thrust into the leadership role with Dhoni being rested and original replacement Gambhir being sidelined through a shoulder injury.
Raina led a similarly depleted India a year ago to Zimbabwe for a tri-series with the host and Sri Lanka. That inexperienced lineup won only one of four matches, losing twice to Zimbabwe, and failed to advance to the final.
Raina, along with his young charges, have another chance to push their case.
This tour also presents new coach Duncan Fletcher with his first taste of international cricket since being chosen to succeed Gary Kirsten.
Kirsten, the former South Africa opening batsman, bowed out on a winning note at the World Cup, while Fletcher's successful eight-year reign as England coach ended with a whimper in the Caribbean four years earlier as he resigned after a poor outing in the 2007 World Cup.
Fletcher will lean heavily on Raina and Virat Kohli, a World Cup standout, to shoulder the batting in the absence of Tendulkar (rested), Sehwag (injured shoulder) and Yuvraj (upper respiratory infection).
There is also another opportunity for the enigmatic Rohit Sharma to transform his obvious star potential into consistent achievement.
Other batting contenders Subramaniam Badrinath, Shikhar Dhawan, Manoj Tiwary as well as wicketkeeper/batsmen Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha are eager for their rare moment in the spotlight.
With ace Zaheer joining Dhoni in resting his weary body, the pace attack has also been reshuffled.
Praveen Kumar, forced to withdraw from the World Cup due to an elbow injury, returns keen to atone for that disappointment.
The beanpole Ishant Sharma and Vinay Kumar share the seam responsibility.
Harbhajan Singh, a veteran of 226 one-dayers, is the most experienced Indian and supports Raina as vice captain.
Harbhajan and fellow offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin renew their World Cup partnership with legspinner Amit Mishra in the wings.
When Gayle wasn't considered for the just-concluded Pakistan tour because he was reportedly recovering from injury, a storm erupted in the Caribbean when he joined the IPL and strode to the man of the tournament award with typically powerful batting for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The issue reared its ugly head again when he wasn't picked to meet India.
The WICB stated that until there have been clear-the-air talks between the former captain and the hierarchy of West Indies cricket, Gayle will remain sidelined.
No timeline for any meeting has been publicized.
Chanderpaul has also recently been berated by the board for his openly critical remarks and, even though the veteran left-hander was unlikely to feature in the limited-overs leg of the series, his test career may be in jeopardy.
Saturday's Twenty20 will be followed by five one-day internationals from June 6-16. The three-test series begins on June 20 in Jamaica. AP