x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

West Indies tour is no formality for India

India's team selection might suggest that the West Indian threat has been taken lightly.

In the euphoria that followed India's World Cup win in April, almost nothing has been said or written about the intrepid class of 1971, whose victories in the West Indies and England were the springboard for so much that followed.

Even though they still had Sir Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, West Indies had slipped a bit by the early 1970s. A debutant called Sunil Gavaskar scored 774 runs in four Tests and the world would have to wait another half decade for a glimpse of the fast-bowling pack that would terrorise everyone for nearly 20 years.

That 1971 triumph remained India's only success in the Caribbean till 2006, when masterful half-centuries from Rahul Dravid gave them victory on a spiteful pitch at Sabina Park in Jamaica. West Indian cricket has fallen on hard times, but it would be dangerous to assume that India's upcoming tour is a mere formality.

The team selection might suggest that the West Indian threat has been taken lightly. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, first-choice openers, have been ruled out by injuries that deteriorated during the Indian Premier League. Yuvraj Singh is out with a lung infection and Sachin Tendulkar wants to spend time with his family.

MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan will also miss the one-day leg of the tour. The changes will be disappointing to West Indian fans, but it offers India's fringe players an opportunity.

Given West Indian frailty against spin that Pakistan exploited, India should win, but it is the progress of the latest inheritors of the '71 legacy that will command the most attention.