BRIDGETOWN (BARBADOS): An unbeatable series lead on their mind, a confident India take on a demoralised West Indies in the second cricket Test here on Tuesday, hoping to break a 58-year winless streak at the Kensington Oval.
All-conquering Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has made little secret of his desire to win at a venue where India has lost five successive Tests since 1971.
The Indians have in fact never won at the venue since it first played host to them in 1953, losing seven while drawing a game here and that draw came way back in 1971.
Dhoni walked in with his troops at the Kensington Oval on a greyish Sunday afternoon and spent longer time with them in the nets than he usually does.
He also made a departure from his usual practice of not inspecting the pitch and almost shared a conclave on the 22-yard strip with Harbhajan Singh and two selectors presently in the Caribbean – Narendra Hirwani and Surendra Bhave.
The Kensington Oval has tested the technique of Indian batsmen — indeed of any visiting batsman — over the years and the mention of just a few legends, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner, has sent shivers down their spine.
However, that’s time bygone and today the hosts lack the firepower almost to the same degree as the visitors are oozing confidence.
West Indies are aware they let go a splendid chance in Sabina Park last week and that the Indians are only going to get better from now on.
A troubled West Indies have thus sought the services of cricket’s best-known psychologist Rudi Webster who, over the next five days, would try to get them out of a defeatist mindset.
"It’s happened too often. We have lost critical moments of play for too long now," West Indian skipper Darren Sammy had lamented after the first Test which India won by 63 runs.
Webster needs a good hose-pipe of wit and wisdom to wash the hosts off their sins of omission this season.
It must be ominous to the West Indies that the Indians are not too happy with the way they won at Sabina Park.
Dhoni said on Saturday his team was getting anxious when the last-wicket West Indian pair had entrenched itself in the middle on the fourth afternoon.
The Indians didn’t find their skills or concentration up to the mark and indeed chose the free fifth day of the Jamaica Test to practice on the centre pitch.
West Indies are unlikely to tamper with their pace attack and the only change from the first game ought to be the induction of Marlon Samuels even as game-changer Chris Gayle continues to cool his heels in the stands due to his feud with the Cricket Board.
The Jamaican showed glimpses of his fine touch in the one-day series and would lap up this moment of career resumption.
Samuels played his first Test in three years against Pakistan this season and promptly hit a half-century. He has a decent average of over 43 against India from three Tests, including a century.
India too may make a change and medium-pacer Munaf Patel could be included in place of leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
Munaf hasn’t played in Tests for over two years but he has been an important cog in India’s wheels this season and deserves a promotion on a pitch as juicy as the Kensington Oval suggests itself to be. A few awaiting landmarks could also fire up the Indians.
Harbhajan Singh needs just four wickets to reach 400-wicket mark; Ishant Sharma requires four for his 100 Test wickets; VVS Laxman needs 85 for complete 8000 Test runs while Dhoni 59 for his 3000 Test runs.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh (wk), Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Kirk Edwards.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), VVS Laxman, Subramaniam Badrinath, Rahul Dravid, Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Pragyan Ojha, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and Ian Gould (England).
Match to start at 7.30 pm Indian Standard Time (IST).(PTI)