Ashwin, Raina likely to play against West Indies (Preview)

March 19th, 2011 - 4:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Chennai, March 19 (IANS) With all the brouhaha over off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s inclusion in the team, India would do well to keep their collective focus on their crucial Group B game against the West Indies here Sunday when the league phase of the ICC Cricket World Cup concludes.

India, with seven points in the kitty, would be going into the game well aware of what they need to do to qualify for the quarter-finals. Because, by then, the result of the other Group B game between South Africa (8) and Bangladesh (6) at Mirpur Saturday would be known.

As for the West Indies (6), they would breathe easier if South Africa beat Bangladesh in which case, they are certain to qualify along with India and England, even if they lose Sunday, but not by a massive margin.

Should Bangladesh defeat South Africa, then the West Indies need to win to qualify in which eventuality, India will be tied with England on points and the Net Run Rate would come into play with the home team slightly better placed.

India would be hoping that the calculators do not have to decide their fate, and that they beat the West Indies and progress. A winning finish would put them in better heart for the shootout stage of the competition commencing March 23.

The 24-year old Ashwin, who made his ODI debut last year, has been as much in the news as say Sachin Tendulkar who is poised on 99 international centuries, and that too without having bowled a single ball in his maiden World Cup.

His continued absence in the playing eleven has confounded the discerning with no solid explanation coming forth from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni or for that matter, any other decision-maker in the team.

Thus far, Ashwin has been overlooked in favour of leg-spinner Piyush Chawla whose return to the national side has been anything but impressive, with four wickets in three matches.

More significantly, England successfully fielded two off-spinners James Tredwell and Graeme Swann who shared seven wickets to beat the West Indies here Thursday.

Even otherwise, there is sufficient ground (not just his home turf Chepauk) for Ashwin’s inclusion Sunday. However, that is largely dependent on the bowling combination Dhoni has in mind.

Should Dhoni follow England’s ploy, then Ashwin would bowl in harness with the other off-spinner Harbhajan Singh who himself has not made any impact in the current World Cup with a tally of just five wickets from five matches.

Like Ashwin, Suresh Raina too has been kept on the shelf, wrapped up in cotton wool. There is a possibility of the flashy left-hander getting a game Sunday, given Yusuf Pathan’s poor form and a reported injury to Virender Sehwag.

Pathan, who has failed to fire in the five World Cup matches he has played so far, has a top score of 30 not out against Ireland and one wicket from 28 overs.

Sehwag is said to be nursing an injury that he picked up in the game against South Africa that India lost. There is no official word yet on the precise nature or the extent of Sehwag’s injury. He did have a net session Saturday, and received some attention from the physio.

On the other hand, the West Indies could rue the big chance they missed Thursday when they lost to England by 18 runs from winning positions. The game brought to fore some talented youngsters, like Andre Russell and Devendra Bishoo, in the Caribbean outfit that showed immense potential to trip higher-ranked teams.

The Windies attack has both pace and spin that can turn the game around, just like a few of their explosive batsmen like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and rookie Russell.

During the England game, the Windies sent out strong signals of what they can achieve with a little more maturity and experience. Their coach Ottis Gibson spoke about the need to be more resilient in tough situations and he would be hoping that his team will have plenty of it to come good against India.

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