Kohli renews his love-affair with Edwards

Team India is finally done playing England. In back-to-back series that must have reminded fans worldwide of why recent India-Sri Lanka games were looked forward to as much as rashes in the groin, the conclusions reached are as follows: 

England are the best Test team in the world- no two ways about it. The competency of their test squad cannot, for all its might and power, distract viewers from the utter helplessness and incompetence of their limited-overs squads. Inspite of winning the ODI series back home against a D&L and rain-afflicted Indian team, England cannot run away from the fact that they are probably the worst ODI team in sub-continental conditions. Finally, skipping the IPL DOES have drawbacks, and we’re happy to know that.

India, along with Australia, are the best ODI teams in the world- which makes the tri series Down Under with the hapless Lanka, one of the most anticipated tournaments this year. 

Moving on, India- previously looking forward to net practice before their important series Down Under- will now consider the series with the West Indies a bit more than that. After all, they just barely won the series in the Caribbean before getting mauled in England- and winning here really won’t do wonders to their confidence, either.
Team India have everything to lose and literally nothing to gain. West Indies, meanwhile, are acclimatizing to these conditions by playing Hookey with the ever-deteriorating Bangladeshi side in their own den.
The Indian squad, declared for the first test ONLY (in a harebrained new method of making the new players insecure) only furthers the belief that this is nothing more than a glorified warm-up series for the team. New blood is being tested, and Old blood, thankfully, is not being rested:

M S Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Virat Kohli, Varun Aaron, Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Sharma

-What is heartening to see: Harbhajan Singh has to fight his way back into contention, with not ONE but THREE spinners gleefully filling his not-so-large shoes. 

-Pragyan Ojha has been given yet another opportunity, not surprisingly, in familiar tailor-made conditions. Expect the unheralded Abdullah to take over if Ojha failes here, thereby passing the baton.  

-MS Dhoni loves cricket. He does not run. He does not hide. Kudos to that, we say. 

-It is comforting to see a regular opening pair back playing at the highest level. Sehwag and Gambhir have a lot of catching up to do. 

-Surprise inclusions Rahane, Sharma and Aaron might be euphoric about this selection- but only TWO of them will get a game in the first test itself. Difficult to see Rahane fitting in anywhere, and a toss-up will be between Sharma and Ojha- depending on the pitch they play on. Sharma might get the nod in Delhi, though.

-Virat Kohli has come a full circle after failing against a mediocre Windies side just a few months ago, and will look to carry on his devastating ODI form and finally snatch a place away from a hurting Raina and an ever-absent, lost cause called Rohit Sharma. Of course, there’s the minor matter of having to compete with Yuvraj for the same spot.
-Zaheer Khan is pacing his comeback for the series Down Under. Let’s hope he bowls more than 10 overs in the first test, and returns by the last test.

Bravo shooting for the Stars

All in all, the squad is a good mix of the past, present and future- and players like Rohit Sharma, Uthappa, Pujara and Raina shouldn’t be too disheartened yet. It is only a matter of time before the holy trio steps down- and this home series may be the penultimate for one of them atleast. It is a good time to give the others a look-in at the cost of non-performing fringe players like….well, I’ll be nice until the end of the series. 

West Indies pose not much of a challenge in the longer format, but they can be dangerous in the ODI series. Nevertheless, they possess a seamless and smart bowling line-up that depend more on guile and variation- much like their counterparts in India, though we do it more out of necessity and lack of adaptation.
Their squad will look new and stunningly inadequate without Gayle, but here goes:

Darren Sammy (capt), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh (wk), Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Shane Shillingford 

-The only change is Barath coming back after an injury layoff, with Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo and Gayle still unable to fight forces beyond their power.
-Bishoo will be the guy to look out for, already impressing in his first few months.

-Darren bravo is fresh from his first test century, furthering his hopes of emulating his idol Lara. He has been a slow starter, but the backlift, swish and talent makes it only a matter of time before he goes onto bigger things. His hunger for big scores indicate that he is a confidence player, as he showed with his first test century only 5 runs short of a double.

-Samuels is back to sub-continental shores after a long ban, and looks to be getting back to the player touted as the next Richards only five years ago. 

-Chanderpaul returns to his favourite opposition, hardly a shadow of a player that- combined with Jimmy Adams- tormented many a Srinath-Prasad-Prabhakar generation back in the 90s. 

-Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards will try to exploit Tendulkar and Laxman’s recent lack of foot movement on the crease, and Kohli will do well to realize that even though the Windies possess a complete drain of batting talent this time, their bowlers more than pack a punch in flat, hot conditions.

Captain Sammy looks very optimistic. Again.

What most Indian fans will look forward to is not the result of the series or even the first test, but the BCCI-planned naming of the ‘Squad’ for the REMAINING two tests after the Delhi game. They might just bump into Harbhajan Singh at the Golden Temple on their way to Kolkata for the second test, and look into his puppydog eyes.

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