|Player:||RS Dravid, V Sehwag, IK Pathan, SC Ganguly, SR Tendulkar, RV Uthappa, DB Vengsarkar|
DateLine: 20th January 2007
Under-performing India hope to turn over a new leaf when they launch their World Cup preparations with a four-match series against the West Indies here from Sunday. The limited-overs face-off against the World Cup hosts and four more games against Sri Lanka next month will help India decide a winning combination for the March 13-April 28 showpiece. India, ranked number three at the start of 2006, slumped badly in the latter part of the year where they lost 13 of their last 17 one-day internationals. Rahul Dravid's men were reduced to a bunch of groping novices as India ended the year with a 4-0 drubbing in South Africa and have now won only two of their last 10 matches, dropping to sixth in the rankings. Worried selectors cracked the whip, dropping the under-performing duo of opener Virender Sehwag and all-rounder Irfan Pathan for the first two West Indian matches and recalling former captain Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly, 34, who made a comeback to the Test squad in South Africa, is expected to open the batting with Robin Uthappa on Sunday in his first one-day appearance in 16 months. Veteran Sachin Tendulkar, one-day cricket's most successful batsman with 14,537 runs and 40 centuries, was elevated as vice-captain despite making just 248 runs in his last 10 matches at an average of 24.80. "We can't afford to lose any more, we must win every match going into the World Cup," said chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar. The West Indians tormented India last year by winning six of their last seven one-dayers. Brian Lara's men also reached the Champions Trophy final in India in November with stunning wins over eventual winners Australia in the league and South Africa in the semi-finals. The West Indies, however, lost both the Test and one-day series in Pakistan in December and will also hope to make a fresh start in India as the World Cup at home nears. "This is our last series before the World Cup and will give us a fair idea of where we stand, where we need to improve and what the best combination will be," said Lara. "We have played good one-day cricket over the last year or so, especially against India, but I know Rahul, Sachin and the others will come hard at us this time. We are ready for the challenge." The West Indians, who will miss Ramnaresh Sarwan (foot injury) and Darren Sammy (hamstring), have picked Trinidad all-rounder Reyad Emrit for his first senior tour. The powerful right-hander, 25, has a first-class century to his credit and has captured 57 wickets in 23 first-class domestic matches. The remaining three one-dayers against the West Indies will be played in Cuttack (January 24), Chennai (Jan 27) and Vadodara (Jan 31). India (from): Rahul Dravid (capt), Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Dhoni, Dinesh Karthick, Suresh Raina, Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Joginder Sharma, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ramesh Powar and Harbhajan Singh. West Indies (from): Brian Lara (capt), Devon Smith, Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Runako Morton, Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Reyad Emrit, Ian Bradshaw, Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor.