Playing against any country ON THEIR SOIL is never easy - even if its Bangladesh who, in my eyes, put up a great show against World Champions Australia in their home series recently....although lost in the end.
Indian team will be playing in West Indies, a series of 5 one day internationals and then 4 test matches after a gap of little more than four years. And as I said - playing against any country on their soil is not an easy job, even if its West Indies, who have lost all the three test series that they have played - to South Africa and Pakistan at home and then in New Zealand. People say its our best chance to win a test series in West Indies after a gap of 36 years (our only test series win in West Indies came in 1970-71 tour. See the history of India vs West Indies test matches for more).
I am sure Indian captain Rahul Dravid and Coach Greg Chappell will be enjoying their break, but also analysing West Indies players and trying to find their minus points in their free time. So why don't we do the same in our free time. Let me help --
Player's you know
Brain Lara - Easily one of the best test-match batsman cricket world has ever seen. I am sure you do agree with me, and I don't need to add the following - Brain Lara has the highest individual score to his name in both International and First class cricket. He has scored a 400 (against England) and a 501 for his domestic team Trinidad and Tobago.
He has a tendency to get out early in his innings, but once his crosses 20, he scores at least 82 runs per innings. Over the years, his batting style has changed and has become more and more "unconventional". Lara is a Dancer on the crease when the bowler is concentrating on line and length, but the way he middles the ball, all the dancing seems highly important, although cricket coaches never teaches them..
Brain Lara has been given the captaincy of West Indies cricket team for the third time which, for me, seems the best possible choice West Indies cricket officials had. World Cup is just around the corner and West Indies are rarely winning anything. They are 8th in test rankings (only above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). Given the situation, Lara, although failed in previous two stints as West Indies captain, was the best available man to motivate his players... or at least be a good Idol.
Recent form :- Played some important innings against Zimbabwe. Very much like a captain when team needs. He also batted lower down the order in the first two ODI's to give his young batsmen some chance before the Indian series. Brain Lara's average against India in test matches has been just 37.66 in 13 matches with just one century.
Chris Gayle - He is a man that Indians will remember quite clearly. He was in blistering form when they played ODI series in India last time and on his day, this left hander can murder any bowling attack..
He is very much like Virendra Sehwag of our team - plays his shots with very effective hand-eye co-ordination and likes to hit the ball hard. With a height of more than 6 feet's, Chris Gayle has a long reach and likes coming down the wicket to seam bowlers. He came very close to beating Lara's 400 when he reached 317 in no time against South Africa at Antigua last year. To me, our spinners in Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar and Anil Kumble will have to check this man, who is not known to play spinners that well..but let me assure you that being an opening batsman, Chris Gayle may present some serious problems on this India's 2006 tour of West Indies.
Recent from :- No real form to be honest. He is struggling to middle the ball even against Zimbabwe and even when West Indies were playing in New Zealand, Chris Gayle was getting out with silly shots. In 8 test matches against India, Chris Gayle has made only 366 runs at an average of 30 and half.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul - West Indian captains has been honest enough to quit their job of captain ship rather than being fired, and Chanderpaul joined the group recently in March 2006. He failed to occupy crease long enough to deny opposition a win and didn't even made enough runs for his bowlers to scare the opponent. He also failed to encourage his team mates to put a fight and ultimately, failed to change the West Indian cricket downfall.
But wait a minute, having a Indian like name or may be having some relations with India as well, Shivnarine Chenderpaul doesn't do an favours to us. His batting average against India is 85.33 in 14 test matches, compiled by 5 centuries and 7 fifties. Whenever Chanderpaul has been out of form, this "unconventional left handed batsman" has had Indian bowling for breakfast, lunch and also for dinner. And I am sure he will be licking his lips for the India's tour of West Indies and our team better make some serious plans against this batsman, who stands right in front of the wicket, trying to play everything on the leg side.
Recent form :- Made 94 brilliant runs in the 4th ODI against Zimbabwe. So we can say he is batting well. But let me add that West Indian cricket may change now as they are having a new Captain, and have got 7 ODI against a team lower in ranking than them. So their batsman can make some easy runs and bowlers can get some cheap wickets...... which may help build some confidence before the Indian series. What do you say??
Ramnaresh Sarwan - He would have been the captain of West Indies cricket captain if Cricket World Cup was not so close. This elegant Right batsman "with Indian relation" was vice captain when Lara was captain and again when Chanderpaul was. Both of the times, West Indies cricket was in down fall and probably that made West Indies cricket officials to go for the more experienced option.
But as far as batting of Sarwan is concerned, he is a gem. He is the most correct batsman(in terms of footwork) in West Indian cricket team and likes to take his time before playing his shots. Sarwan has a habit of nailing the bail into the pitch to make a guard for himself, something that very few batsmen do over the world. With an ODI average of more than 44.15 and test average of 39.89, Sawran is a batsman that India's would like to get out early, coz he is more likely to play long innings and rally other batsmen around him.
The above averages may sound OK, but they will sound even more dangerous when I tell you that Sarwan took 49 innings of 28 test matches to get his first century. After that, 31 test matches has seen 7 more centuries from this Guyana Right hander.
Recent form :- His form has been the Usual. He made crucial runs for his team but because of batting lower down the order - at 5 or 6, he hardly had time to build an innings and score heavily. Lets just say he has been batting OK. Sarwan averages 37.91 against India with a highest score of 78 in 8 matches in all.