March 20, Chennai
Start time 1430 hours (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
No wonder India play so much cricket without seeming to overly mind it. When MS Dhoni walks out for the toss for this game, it will have been more than a week since they last played in the World Cup. The off days for the Indian team, however, have been days of plenty of buzz and activity for the Indian cricketing public and media. Dhoni has suddenly gone from being Midas to moron for getting Ashish Nehra to bowl the final over; Yusuf Pathan is no longer a good choice to bat in batting Powerplay; heated meetings between selectors, board secretary and captain have been reported and denied ; the moon's proximity to the earth has had its say; the next coach has become a topic of discussion; UDRS blunders and Sachin Tendulkar's impending 100th hundred have been overshadowed; everything that can be debated, even those that cannot be, have been debated.
If you have been watching news channels in India, or reading news publications, doom is not too far. Which is why the players have been asked to stay far away. Which is why it is a good thing that they are back on the field where they can sort out their team combination for the knockouts, and there are issues bothering them. Piyush Chawla's inclusion in the XV, always a bit inexplicable, has so far been exposed as a mistake, a gamble gone wrong, which reduces India's options if they feel that either of Munaf Patel or Nehra is out of form.
And Virat Kohli - this will sound harsh on a young man in the form of his life - has hurt the team balance a bit, forcing Suresh Raina out, who is more suited at the slog end and is a pretty canny part-time offspinner. For this game, though, India might not have to make a choice, for Virender Sehwag is down with an allergic reaction to a painkiller injection.
India's opponents are now assured of a place in the knockouts, but the game is just as big for them. Bangladesh are the only Test team West Indies have beaten in an ODI since June 28, 2009, which hurts them bad. Also painful will be how they didn't trust themselves to play normal cricket and finish a middling chase against England after the explosive start by Chris Gayle. They will dearly love to end that unflattering streak, and in the process finish at No. 2 in Group B, thus avoiding the best two sides from Group A in the quarter-final.
If it provides some comfort, the previous major team West Indies beat was India, in Jamaica, through aggressive bowling. They will rate their chances because they are up against a side that is under pressure, no matter how much it avoids the media and the public. A side that will have done really well if it plays uninhibited, free-flowing cricket. West Indies might think the iron is hot.
Chennai is certainly hot, and its spinner-friendly track and reverse-friendly square have provided the two matches of the tournament so far. The World Cup will want to bid it a fitting farewell before it moves to the flatter, more predictable surfaces.
(completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LWWWL
Watch out for...
Chris Gayle has to be hurting. In a chase of 244, he left his side at 58 for 1 in the seventh over, but the rest still managed to fall 18 short. Will he go back to reining himself in and playing through the innings? Will he decide to make Sunday his day and his day alone, and go swinging?
Sides have decided the best way to beat India, at least when they are on the field, is to play Harbhajan Singh out and not give him wickets. Hence an economy-rate of 4.41, but only five wickets. At times it works for India, producing more wicket-taking opportunities for the other bowlers that the batsmen feel compelled to attack. In this World Cup, it has worked for the batsmen. Chennai, though, will be Harbhajan's best chance of taking wickets: a turning pitch, and a fair sprinkling of left-hand batsmen.
R Ashwin, through all indicators, seems to the be the man India want the world to see as little of as possible before the big matches. Is a match that determines whether they face New Zealand or Sri Lanka in the quarter-final big enough?
Sehwag is a big doubt. "Viru has got an allergic reaction in his right knee, so we will take that call either in the evening or on the morning of the game," Dhoni said.
India (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 & 11 two out Ashish Nehra, R Ashwin and Munaf Patel
Leaving Shivnarine Chanderpaul was a brave move on paper, but it did backfire on West Indies when they missed one batsman who would take the responsibility and anchor the chase on a difficult track. Do they bring him back? If they do, that will mean dropping either one of the specialist batsmen or one out of Andre Russell and Devendra Bishoo, both of whom had a superb game against England. Right now, Ramnaresh Sarwan seems to be the most disposable member of the XI that lost to England.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Ramnaresh Sarwan/Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Darren Sammy (capt.), 7 Devon Thomas (wk), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Sulieman Benn, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Devendra Bishoo.
Pitch and conditions
Expect another baked turner with a hard square that should facilitate reverse-swing. For those looking for respite from the Chennai heat, the following is not good news. Chance of precipitation on Sunday: 0%.
Stats and trivia
Legspinner Bishoo took three wickets on his debut in Chennai. Thirteen years ago, a legspinner in a similar mould, took 16 wickets on his Test debut, again in Chennai. West Indies then were at the receiving end of Narendra Hirwani.
Everybody knows Sachin Tendulkar is one short of reaching 100 international hundreds, but he is also just 47 short of 18,000 ODI runs.
The World Cup head-to-head between the teams is tied at three and three.
"It is a big learning curve and hopefully we won't repeat the same mistakes that have happened so far. We are human beings, we are always supposed to commit mistakes. Hopefully the interval between two will be long."
Vintage MS Dhoni