Flashback to the 2009 ODI series in West Indies. The four-match tournament had MS Dhoni captain the Indians to a 2-1 victory with the final match at Gros Islet being washed out.
That the series was much closer than what the record sheets would now indicate is not so much to do with the Indian side lacking teeth as a spirited West Indies team at home. In fact with the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh, the visitors were no World Cup winners but a potent force nonetheless. Yet in every match, the team was put to the test by a side that looked hell-bent on keeping the trophy at home.
First match and the intent was clear. Though Indian batsmen bludgeoned their way after winning the toss and posted 339 on the board, the Chris Gayle led side made a match of the target. Yuvraj's single-man knock of 131 was opposed by a combined effort from Runako Morton (42), Ramnaresh Sarwan (45)and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (63). While the final score in the chase folded on 319 at the Sabina Park and had some question the famous pace and bounce here, most chose to appreciate a strong-willed performance.
The signs were ominous and West Indies threw caution to the wind in the second match at the same venue. The bowlers looked like a stack of guns ready to fire at will to seek vengeance and 3 wickets for 7 early on proved the same. A 95 from Dhoni in the middle order was the only saving grace for India as the batting that had declaredÂ their enmity with anything other than boundaries clear three days back, collapsed on 188. Ravi Rampaul took four wickets while Jerome Taylor and Dwayne Bravo garlanded themselves with three Indian scalps each.
If the bowlers paved the way, the batsmen walked in and sped the hosts to an emphatic 8-wicket victory with 95 balls still remaining. 1-win each.
The third match had West Indies fold on 186 batting first with 3 wickets for Ashish Nehra. That the Indians managed to win the match by 6 wickets and 1 ball remaining (D/L method) eventually gave them the series and the trophy that came with it. Certainly the cakewalk that they may have expected on the Caribbean beaches was not to be had.
Fast forward two years and we have almost the same two teams that will lock horns once again sans some big names that were missing then and are the same now - Sachin, Virender and Zaheer. But much has changed since the last time the team from Columbus' actual destination toured his eventual destination.
India has scaled almost every peak imaginable in the cricketing world with the title of no.1 Test team and the mantle of World Cup winners. Confidence though would be best kept in the suitcases rather than in the cricketing bags. They face a team that has all the potential to sting and inflict the venomous dose of defeat. So what if Chris Gayle has had a tiff with the board and what of Chanderpaul being asked to retire? For all it's export of talent to it's northern neighbours to play American sport and live the American life, the islands that once struck terror in cricket continues to preach force, glory and skill in it's cricketing schools and in it's cricketing ways of life. Taking them easy should best be left to the Indian fans, expected to be in huge numbers here and in spare figures back home owing to the cricket hangover and the nocturnal timings.