POOL B | Friday 06 March | Perth | 08:30
It’s three out of three for the defending champions and a relatively easy fixture list to come in India’s run-in to the knockout stage. Following this match against a West Indian side struggling for relevance, India take on Ireland and Zimbabwe and therefore are odds-on favourites to top Pool B. Another loss here for the West Indies will put them further at risk of not qualifying for the quarter-finals. The WACA pitch and its explosive pace and bounce will make neither side comfortable but India’s win against the UAE in Perth on Saturday will mean that they line up the better prepared.
To Win Match
The defending World Cup champions are unbeaten in the tournament and look a far cry from the shambolic side who failed to win anything in the country since their tour began in late November. The Carlton Mid Tri-Series with Australia and England was a massive disappointment in terms of preparation but perhaps MS Dhoni and his charges were merely keeping a little something left in the tank for the most important one-day tournament of them all. They’ve thumped both Pakistan and South Africa and continued the trend against minnows UAE. They dismissed the Associates for 102 at the WACA, their lowest ever ODI total and the lowest against India by any nation at a World Cup. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli combined to take India to a comfortable nine-wicket victory and ensured that all of the Indian top order have now come into form. The only thing that remains for the champions is to fine-tune their batting at the death. In the final five overs against Pakistan they scored 27/5 and against the Proteas, 36/3. They’ll know that they’ll require something a bit more explosive in the knockout stage.
More personnel concerns for the West Indies as Darren Bravo is now out of the World Cup with a hamstring tear. Johnson Charles has been called up in good form to replace him, scoring 177 and 151 in recent domestic cricket. The West Indies were blown away by South Africa in familiar fashion and must be sick of the Proteas, AB de Villiers in particular. Poor Jason Holder has been tasked with leading the side at the age of 23 and although he managed to scrape together a well-deserved fifty in a losing cause against South Africa, his bowling was taken apart by the South African captain and Holder’s confidence can only be shot. He’s leading what he clearly knows to be neither his strongest team, nor one that can challenge the established powers in international cricket. They will take heart from a good win against Pakistan and a win in the opening ODI of their abandoned tour of India, but the loss to Ireland still persists in reminding punters that the West Indies are well short of where they should be. In spite of the threat that Chris Gayle poses, they should be overpowered here.
The WACA isn’t the easiest ground to come to terms with due to the extra pace and bounce and also played slightly two-paced and uneven in the Tri-Series, making batting a tough prospect. A well crafted and patient innings will be required for victory, two qualities that the West Indies really do not possess. India’s pace attack has proven a handful in this tournament while Ravi Ashwin enjoyed success at the ground against the UAE. The weather is predicted to be bright and sunny in Perth.
India weren’t a side I expected much from prior to the tournament but they have certainly proved me wrong. They’re a tight-knit group and don’t have many discernible weaknesses in their make-up. Every Indian side is burdened with a pace attack that doesn’t inspire much confidence but this is probably the best group of seamers they’ve had in some time. Add to that their electrifying fielding and they are certainly in with a shot of defending their this year. They should prove too much for the hapless Windies.