Wednesday, 8 October 2014

India seek perfect combo for World Cup

KOCHI: For India, the journey to the World Cup begins here. They play West Indies in the first of five ODIs at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on Wednesday and though conditions here are not similar to Australia and New Zealand, the series provides an opportunity to players to stake their claim or cement their spots.

Though India are playing a tri-series in Australia in January, according to ICC regulations the selectors will have to announce the squad for the World Cup a month before that tournament.

This means the series against West Indies is the final opportunity for selectors and team management to have a look at players they want to be on the plane to Australia.

India, despite their convincing 3-1 ODI series win in England, are still searching for the right combination, as MS Dhoni made clear. "It is important to win the series but we need to look at the bigger picture. The most important thing is to start well and look to win it first.

"We don't want to go to Australia and say, 'Okay, we should have done this'. The long-term goal, winning the World Cup is something that is crucial for us," he said. "We will try to make the most of the resources we have got and the opportunities we've got to see what the cricketers we have can offer the side."

The series will also be crucial for Virat Kohli, who was all at sea against the pace and swing of James Anderson in England. Kohli, who scored just 54 runs in the series at an average of 18.00, will be keen to get those numbers right at home.

He did spend time with Sachin Tendulkar in Mumbai during the break, but on Tuesday didn't face any bowlers at nets. He just received throwdowns from assistant coach Sanjay Bangar.

This series is crucial for two other batsmen - Shikhar Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu. And then there is the bowling, especially at the death, which is a big concern for India.

"It's a genuine concern for us. Death bowling is tough with the extra fielder inside the circle. You may have a few variations but it is important to have the yorker up your sleeve. Shami is the one who has consistently bowled yorkers for us at the death," said Dhoni, indicating that the pacer might be his go-to man in the end overs for this series and beyond.

Payment row hits Windies, Bravo skips trophy unveiling

West Indies skipper Dwayne Bravo didn't attend the customary pre-match media conference and the trophy unveiling that is done before the series was also cancelled. Indications are a payment dispute is to blame. The players didn't turn up for practice either and instead had lengthy deliberations at the team hotel.

It is learnt that a monetary dispute between the players and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was the reason for the players' non-cooperation.

"It's an internal matter between WICB and their players. From what I could gather it is a monetary dispute between the players and WICB with regard to sponsorship. The BCCI is also not happy that the trophy unveiling ceremony had to be cancelled as it will disappoint our sponsors," said a top BCCI official on conditions of anonymity.

After losing Chris Gayle to injury, the West Indies suffered another jolt when spinner Sunil Narine flew back home after being reported for suspect action in the Champions League T20. To make matters worse, they were given a hiding by the India 'A' outfit in the two warm-up matches.

And now comes the monetary dispute which threatens to derail their preparations. The Windies aren't a happy bunch at the moment.

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