Kochi: India go into the five-match series against the West Indies starting with the first ODI here Wednesday with an eye to the 2015 World Cup and prepare what would be the final group to defend the title Down Under when the mega event starts Feb 14.
In all, India have nine matches in hand to prepare the final squad for the World Cup that will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Feb 14-March 29.
After the series against the West Indies, that also includes three Tests, India tour Australia for a series comprising four Tests and a triangular series, also involving England. India are set to play four ODIs in Australia and a possible fifth if they make it to the final.
Last year in November, the West Indies toured India for what was a farewell series for Sachin Tendulkar and it turned out to be a one-sided affair, with the home side winning the Tests 2-0 and ODI series 2-1.
However, the West Indies series has gained prime importance for India more than ever in recent times. The squad for the first three ODIs will see rookie Kuldeep Yadav, a chinaman bowler, and comeback leggie Amit Mihsra in the side trying their best to get the attention of the selectors for a longer run.
Having won the ODI series in England, India will be looking to carry on the momentum against the West Indies before flying to Australia. In familiar conditions, India look the dominant side and it would also be an opportunity for players like Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Murali Vijay to make the best of the series.
But all eyes will be on Virat Kohli, who had a horrid time in England in both Tests and ODI. The Delhi boy has certainly been the most consistent Indian batsmen in the last couple of years, but in England he was clueless against the pace of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson. On flat tracks and against an average West Indies bowling attack, the stage is perfect for Kohli to get back his form.
For West Indies, as their wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin puts appropriately, they have to improve in all aspects of the game if they are to beat India. First the absence of the maverick Chris Gayle and then the suspension of spinner Sunil Narine due to chucking have hit them hard. They also lost both their 50-over warm-up matches against India A.
“We have to play well in all departments. We can't bat well and don't field well. It is very important our batters come out and put the runs on the board,” said Ramdin.
“We will be without Sunil Narine so hopefully the guys will pull their weight more and come up with the goods. Young Jerome Taylor in the fast bowling department is going to be very exciting … but the Indian batsmen are very talented as well so we need to get early wickets and put the middle and lower order under pressure,” he said.
But the addition of captain Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith and Andre Russell will bolster the strength of the squad. Bravo and Smith were part of the Chennai Super Kings squad that won the Champions League Twenty20 final while Russell campaigned for losing finalists Kolkata Knight Riders.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav.
West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (captain), Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdin (wicketkeeper), Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Jason Holder, Sulieman Benn, Ravi Rampaul, Leon Johnson, Jerome Taylor, Andre Russell and Kemar Roach.