Monday, June 6, Port of Spain
Start time 0900 (1300 GMT)
It's their first ODI assignment as world champions, and India are fielding a second-string team. The IPL has won out over West Indies in terms of player priority, but will the hosts be able to make the Indians pay for their decision? When India and West Indies played for the first time after their meeting in the 1983 World Cup final, the Indians were taught a bitter lesson in a 5-0 thrashing by the still pre-eminent team in world cricket then. Replicating that is beyond the present West Indies outfit, but they promise a closely-fought series, boosted by the return of Dwayne Bravo.
If the only Twenty20 international was anything to go by, the West Indies batting was vulnerable against spin, a continuation of its problems against the slow bowlers from the Pakistan series. The spin-friendly pitch at the Queen's Park Oval made it worse for them, and their woes could recur if the surface plays the same.
There is much curiosity off the field, though. Chris Gayle made a glitzy appearance in the crowd for the Twenty20, and kept us guessing with his tweets, hinting that things vis-a-vis his return were shaping up for the better. He's not been picked for the first two ODIs, but there's no doubting the impact he'll have if differences with the board are settled, at least in the short term.
Second-string or not, India are still world champions, and Suresh Raina will be under pressure to ensure his team delivers a performance worthy of that title and prevent any damage to its pride after a heated build-up to the tour.
Form guide (most recent first)
West Indies: WWLLL
R Ashwin has been around the Indian domestic scene for a long time, but rose to prominence during the IPL, capping off another successful season in Chennai Super Kings' second title win. He's only played nine ODIs, including two in the World Cup, and hasn't done too badly. On tracks that have so far favoured spin, his variations, which include the carrom ball, could prove a handful for a West Indies batting line-up. His battles with Gayle in the IPL were memorable, and Ashwin will only be eager to resume that duel.
Kieron Pollard, of late, has acquired a reputation to be somewhat of a minnow-basher in ODIs. He's been a Twenty20 specialist, but an average of 20.37 in the 50-over format is something he'd consider a blot. He faces a familiar set of bowlers this series, and has a chance to address his lack of impact against the more accomplished ODI teams.
India played two specialist spinners and two seamers in the Twenty20, but didn't pick Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra or Vinay Kumar. Ishant could get a go in place of either Munaf Patel or Praveen Kumar, while Mishra and Ashwin may swap places as the series goes on. The same is likely for wicketkeepers Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha.
India (possible): 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 S Badrinath, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Suresh Raina (capt), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Ishant Sharma/Praveen Kumar, 11 Munaf Patel.
Dwayne Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Pollard return to the side, and so does Carlton Baugh, the wicketkeeper, replacing Andre Fletcher.
West Indies (possible): 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Kirk Edwards, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Ramnaresh Sarwan/ Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Darren Sammy (capt), 8 Carlton Baugh (wk), 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Andre Russell, 11 Devendra Bishoo.
Stats and trivia
* When India and West Indies met for the first time in an ODI after the 1983 World Cup final, they played in Srinagar, Kashmir. The match was cut short due to a dust storm and bad light, and West Indies thrashed the hosts by ten wickets.
"Each individual will have his game plan and the focus should be to rotate the strike. You will have to sweep, use your feet, play with soft hands, all those things come into play." Darren Sammy on the plan to overcome India's spin threat