Fresh from completing a rather one-sided series sweep against West Indies in Tests, India now turn their attention to a five-game ODI series against the same opposition.
The first game is a day-night affair – as are all matches in the series – to be played at the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati in Assam state on Sunday. Subsequent matches are to be played out in Visakhapatam, Pune, Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium and, after some controversy, the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvanathapuram, which will host its maiden ODI.
Above, the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvanathapuram was eventually confirmed as the venue for the fifth ODI on November 1st.
Wherever the games are held over India’s vast landmass, it certainly seems on paper that West Indies have a Himalayas-esque mountain to climb if they are to get anything from the series. Everything – rankings, form, squad experience, home advantage – seems stacked against Jason Holder’s men, and you suspect India will not be happy with anything less than a first ever clean-sweep over their Caribbean visitors.
India are buoyed by the return of their mighty captain Virat Kohli, who was rested for the Asia Cup campaign in the UAE, and have a strong squad for the series. India have named a XII for the first game already, with recent Test debutant keeper Rishabh Pant likely to make his ODI debut as a batsman. MS Dhoni keeps the gloves, and the only decision would appear to be between Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Shami as the final seamer.
West Indies are not in such a luxurious position. Firstly, their coach Stuart Law is suspended for the first two matches of the series for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct in the second test earlier this month. His squad contains no fewer than four potential international debutants – Oshane Thomas, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Fabian Allen and Obed McCoy – and is missing big names like the Bravos, Evin Lewis and Chris Gayle, who continues to manage his workload/bank balance ahead of the World Cup next year.
India are ranked second in ODIs and have won eleven of their fifteen 50-over games this year – winning 5-1 in South Africa and taking home the Asia Cup either side of a 2-1 series defeat to the only side ranked higher than them in the format, England.
By contrast, West Indies lost a three match series at home to Bangladesh last time out, their only ODIs this year aside from the Cricket World Cup Qualifier where they narrowly squeaked through to England 2019. Their ranking of ninth is not an injustice.
So, a potential banana-peel for India to navigate as they continue to hone their side ahead of the World Cup, and a daunting opportunity for an inexperienced West Indies side in unfamiliar conditions. Let’s hope they put up a fight, and make an interesting series of it over the next 11 days.
Aside from the big picture issues, there are a number of personal milestones to keep an eye on:
Virat Kohli (India)
Superstar captain Kohli returns to take the reins from stand-in Rohit Sharma for this series. He currently has 9,779 runs in the fifty-over format, needing just 221 to become the 13th man worldwide and fifth Indian (after Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and teammate MS Dhoni) to reach 10,000. If he gets there he will be by some conformable margin the quickest batsman ever to do so.
Shikhar Dhawan (India)
Dropped from the Test side, opener Dhawan has a point to prove, and a milestone to reach to boot. He needs 177 runs in the series to notch up 5,000 for his county in One Day Internationals.
Ravindra Jadeja (India)
Another batting milestone in sights for an Indian batsman – all rounder Jadeja looking for 38 runs to bring up 2,000 in ODIs.
MS Dhoni (India)
Veteran keeper and former skipper Dhoni is, as noted above, one of only 12 men to score more than 10,000 ODI runs. His 10.123 so far see him in twelfth spot, so he’ll be keen to score the 168 runs he needs to surpass Sri Lanka’s Tilakaratne Dilshan and move into eleventh.
Mohammed Shami (India)
With 91 wickets currently in his ledger, Shami needs just nine to bring up 100 for his country.
Marlon Samuels (West Indies)
Unlike some of his other high profile colleagues, all rounder Marlon Samuels has made himself available for the series. Should he be selected on Sunday in Guwahati, it will mark his 200th appearance for the Windies in ODIs.