Port of Spain: Suresh Raina, who is India's captain for the limited-overs leg of the tour of West Indies, has admitted there will be huge expectations from his team despite the absence of some big names.
"[Being captain] is a great challenge to me and I'm really looking forward to that," Raina said on the team's arrival in the Caribbean. "We have good players who want to do well in this series. They have done well in first-class cricket and the IPL or in the World Cup team."
For the ODIs, India will be without regular captain MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, and Zaheer Khan, who have been rested, while Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag miss out through injury or illness. Dhoni and Zaheer are set to return for the Tests, but the other seniors are set to miss the entire series. The tour will also be Duncan Fletcher's first assignment with the Indian side.
Raina said the senior players "deserved a break" and was hopeful the youngsters in the squad would make the most of the opportunity. "We have a young team here and they are focused on doing well for India and I am excited to see how they perform over the next few weeks."
West Indies lost their recent ODI series to Pakistan and will once again be without opener Chris Gayle, who was the top run-getter in the IPL, but has been left out for the first two ODIs. When India last played ODIs in the West Indies in 2006, they lost 1-4. The two teams subsequently met in the World Cup earlier this year when India won by 80 runs in Chennai, en route to their tournament triumph. Raina, however, said India would not be complacent. "The West Indies team has been playing good cricket for the past few months and we are not going to take them lightly," he said.
The only Twenty20 game will be played on Saturday at Port of Spain, while the five-match ODI series begins at the same venue on June 6.
Meanwhile West Indies beat the High Performance Centre (HPC) team by 11 runs in a practice Twenty20 game in Couva on Thursday. Batting first, West Indies were restricted to 145 in their 20 overs on what appeared to be a good batting pitch. Opener Lendl Simmons carried on his good form from the Pakistan series, top-scoring with a rapid 43, while Danza Hyatt made 22.
Uncapped left-arm seamer Krishmar Santokie, who has been picked in the Twenty20 squad, and Christopher Barnwell shared two wickets apiece as HPC were restricted to 134 for 6. Wicketkeeper-batsman Shane Dowrich was their mainstay with 52 off 41 balls.