ENOUGH DAMAGE Despite the reasonable quality of the replacements in Carlos Brathwaite, Johnson Charles and possibly Dwayne Smith, enough damage I think has been done to the core of the West Indies unit that they will now struggle to lift that trophy. Losing all of five first string potential match winners has destroyed the blueprint for the success of this team. The injuries to Simmons and Pollard apart, the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of Bravo especially, is disappointing, to say the least. To my mind, it could give the impression that the Brian Lara look alike has basically deserted the team. In instances of desertion, the West Indies Cricket should fine and sanction players. As a general principle though, no player should have the right to dictate when and where he plays. The Russell indiscretions are also unforgivable. I am still in shock and disbelief that a player at this elite level of cricket is not able to navigate his way through such basic obligations as adhering to the drug-testing requirements. Narine’s decision to opt out, while still disappointing, is more understandable due to the recent woes relating to his bowling action. The wish was that the desire and passion of this group of players to represent the West Indies in this format of the game would overcome all else. That is obviously not the case. Our recent pathetic performances and embarrassing results at the Test and ODI levels are well documented and with our Twenty20 team representing the only credible unit on the international stage, it basically tugs at the heart to see this team falling apart. Our last hope of immediate international success is rapidly evaporating. One could venture into being extremely optimistic and hope that the remaining members of the squad will use the absence of these key players as motivation to energise and lift their individual efforts enough for them to march on and win the trophy. That would make good material for a dressing room team talk, but is a stretch of the reality. Confidence and optimism about the West Indies winning the World T20 have now been reduced to nonchalant hope. The fact of the matter is that the team has in part disintegrated and from here could struggle to make a significant impression. Indeed it is quite possible that the West Indies could make a very early exit from World T20. It was with genuine belief and optimism that some weeks ago I predicted that the West Indies should and would win the 2016 ICC World Cup T20 title. My impression then was that the 2012 champions, like the other top contenders India and Australia, possess the necessary skill and experience to get the job done. Fundamentally, I thought then the Caribbean team, compared to the others, had more individual match winners in their ranks, which in the end would get them over the line. Fast forward to here and now, days before the start of the tournament. The West Indies are absolutely falling apart. Four of those potential match winners, for one reason or another, are no longer in the squad, while a fifth, Andre Russell, will be playing with additional after news emerged that he shockingly missed three drug tests and could be banned for up to two years. Lendl Simmons is the latest to withdraw from the squad with an injury. Before him there was the mystery withdrawal of batsman Darren Bravo, who said he wants to concentrate more on playing the longer versions of the game. Kieron Pollard failed to recover from injury, while mystery spinner Sunil Narine said he was not confident enough in his bowling action to take part in the tournament.
India’s build-up for the ICC World Cup began in an exciting manner at home on Saturday as the seasoned pair of Kedar Jadhav and Mahendra Singh Dhoni stitched together an unbeaten 141-run partnership in Hyderabad against Australia.For those who may have got a bit bored repeatedly watching India and Australia compete on the cricket field, there is plenty at stake in the current series.Having lost both the T20 internationals last week, it was important for the Indian team to regain momentum. For almost weeks in a row, there has been intense speculation on how much tinkering can be done with the team in the last five ODIs before the World Cup.Comments coming from people who matter have been mixed. Someone like skipper Virat Kohli feels these ODIs assume significance and not the Indian Premier League which will follow. In contrast, selection committee chairman MSK Prasad has said something quite the opposite as to how the IPL will matter!Back to the match on Saturday, the bowling department once again had a settled look and did well to restrict the Aussies to 236. With Ravindra Jadeja back in the ODI mix after a long time, he once again showed how valuable his experience could be in England in the World Cup. His 10 overs offered many indicators as to how his left-arm spin could come in handy.With Vijay Shankar not getting to bowl a full quota of 10 overs, there is not much to suggest he will figure in the final 15 for the World Cup.advertisementFor those who had seen Dhoni and Jadhav bat in Australia, Saturday’s match was like a repeat. After four wickets had fallen, it looked pretty open. This is when the duo stuck together and played with purpose.Jadhav was definitely more aggressive and dominated but what was important was he had the right support from Dhoni at the other end. This is not the same Dhoni we knew a few years ago. His aggression has come down, though to expect him to win you matches single-handedly may be a bit unreasonable.But if you are going to talk of pure wicket-keeping skills and experience, Dhoni still has plenty to offer to the Indian team. The other day, Sunil Gavaskar spoke at the India Today Conclave on how Dhoni could be the X factor at the World Cup.Someone like Gavaskar knows more than the average fan and other experts, so what he was suggesting was how Dhoni being close to the thick of action can be a big plus. It’s no secret, Kohli relies heavily on the inputs his previous captain gives. Add the two brains – Dhoni and Kohli – there is a lot which can be planned together now and in the World Cup.To be sure, the process of tinkering and trying options for India has begun. The think-tank is planning to try out all the options available before the World Cup. Jadeja may not have got a look in, but with Hardik Pandya out of action, luck smiled on him.There is still room to make smart changes in the top of the batting order. The way wickets fell on Saturday, it would be good to see Kohli come down and bat at the No.4 position from here on.There are reasons why this move will pay dividends as the team needs someone with Kohli’s experience to guide the team in the event of a collapse at the top. Kohli scored 44 on Saturday and there was pressure after that on Dhoni and Jadhav.At the top, you have two batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan with rich experience. The No.3 position, currently occupied by Kohli, could do with a change. It may be well worth trying out Ambati Rayudu or Rishabh Pant in the one-drop position.After the series in Australia, coach Ravi Shastri had hinted Kohli could come in at No.4. As one who reads the game well and is part of the think-tank for the World Cup, the next four matches could see more experiments being made.The advantage of Kohli coming one position lower is he can stay on till the end of the innings. He has been in amazing form and from here on, how he preserves himself will be very important. After all, none wants to see the Indian cricketers suffer a burn-out before the World Cup.In life as in sport, heroes have a big role to play in success and defeat and eventually becoming huge role models. Just before the ODIs, the Indian team may have found it hard to concentrate in the T20s, what with Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman held in captivity by Pakistan.advertisementPerhaps, this win on Saturday against Australia was a big salute to the Indian Air Force officer returning home safely.Indeed, this is the final countdown for the Indian cricket team.Also Watch: