Perth, Australia: Defending champion India can clinch a quarterfinal place at the Cricket World Cup on Friday with a win over a West Indies lineup that is having the kind of run that poses as many questions as it answers when the team steps onto the field.
India, which had to deal with some controversy this week over a reported incident involving test captain Virat Kohli and a journalist during training in Perth, will be wondering which version of the West Indies squad will show up at the WACA.
Will it be the one which lost by four wickets to second-tier Ireland, or the one which rebounded to beat 1992 champion Pakistan by 150 runs and Zimbabwe by 73 runs, or the one that lost by a whopping 257 runs to South Africa in its last match when it was bowled out for 151 runs in the 34th over?
Asked after the South Africa match if that large losing margin left his squad "on the back foot" heading into its key match against India, West Indies captain Jason Holder seemed unconcerned.
"We're going to be aggressive, we're going to play our normal style of cricket," Holder said. "We obviously have areas to improve on in terms of our (late-overs) bowling and still ... I think once we do that, we're still a force to be reckoned with in this competition. Today was just the first off-day with the bat."
India, meanwhile, has had nearly a week off in Perth, the capital of Western Australia state. Its last match and third consecutive win of the tournament came last Saturday at the WACA when the players hardly had to work up a sweat, dismissing the United Arab Emirates for 102 in 31.3 overs before hauling in that total in 18.5 overs to win by nine wickets.
As has sometimes been the case with Indian cricket squad in the past, relations with a large traveling media contingent have soured. India's team management had to deny reports that Kohli used offensive language at a journalist during a practice session.
Indian media reported Wednesday that Kohli apparently mistook the journalist for somebody who had published a negative story about the batsman's girlfriend, Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.
Kohli was promoted to India's test captaincy when Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from the longer format during the recent series against Australia, and questions have been raised in the domestic media about his temperament and suitability for the job.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India issued a brief statement saying: "There was a misunderstanding and no abusive language was used. Virat has spoken to the concerned gentlemen immediately and matter ends ..." The journalist, Jasvinder Sidhu, has complained to the International Cricket Council.
Dhoni, meanwhile, keeps getting asked how his squad has managed to stage such a turnaround in its playing fortunes. India played for three months in Australia without winning a match in a test series with Australia or in a limited-overs tri-series against Australia and England.
"When it comes to ICC tournaments, you have to raise your game as individuals and as a team," Dhoni said. "There's no real secret magic to it."
India team director Ravi Shastri also said he was not surprised by the team's resurgence, and slammed the scheduling of the tri-series in the process.
"I think the team was mentally drained ... the boys needed to recharge their batteries and freshen up for the World Cup," Shastri said. "The break from cricket did them a world of good as they came all guns blazing when it was required ... the script went on expected lines. And frankly speaking, I believe that this tri-series that we played was a sheer waste of time and energy."