Saturday, August 27, 2016
Start time 1000 local (1400 GMT)
Despite the format's popularity, it is fair to say bilateral Twenty20 internationals are not the newest fad in town. The sheer amount of effort and perseverance required to win a Test match gives importance to even dead rubbers. Bilateral ODIs are still a series, and 100 overs is a long enough duration for narratives to develop. Twenty20, more than any other format, needs a larger context: two points that might push you up a league table or a win that might save you from elimination from a World T20. Bilateral T20 series are played either at the end or start of a long tour almost as an afterthought; they are usually so unimportant that teams hardly bother with getting visas for their T20 specialists.
However, these two, to be played over a weekend in Lauderhill in Florida, between world champions West Indies and the team they beat in the World T20 semi-final, India, are different. They carry an important context. While this is not the first time international cricket is being played in America, India v West Indies - two teams with a large expat following there - is way bigger than New Zealand playing Sri Lanka or West Indies.
Cricket economy mostly runs around India. So when India go to America with all their delegates, when they sell the TV rights, when they sell the trophy rights, it becomes a big experiment for the future of cricket. This could even be a test run for a second IPL, a mini version, in America going forward; CPL has already had a stint in America that can't be termed unsuccessful.
While these two matches are huge for the cricket economy and its globalisation - in terms of staging and not participation - the cricket carries more subtext than your usual bilateral Twenty20 internationals. Who can forget Darren Sammy's impassioned speech after he led West Indies to their second World T20 title? Well, the WICB wants you to forget the man himself. He has been dropped despite his stellar performance in the CPL. Leading them now is Carlos "remember the name" Brathwaite.
West Indies' T20 success is down to their individual professionalism rather than the administration. Dropping an inspirational leader such as Sammy is not the first time the establishment has been less than conducive to their best performance; can they continue to excel regardless?
India's leader, on the other hand, is a man much relieved because he is not playing Tests anymore, but that means whatever limited-overs cricket he leads India in becomes extra important for him. He has not tasted first-hand the joys of beating Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies in Tests recently. Over the last year the two highlights for him have been the Asia Cup win and perhaps the Twenty20 series win in Australia. When a player doesn't get chances in all formats, his shortcomings in the only formats he plays can get magnified. The home series defeat to South Africa, and his failure at finishing off a chase against Zimbabwe means people will keep raising questions if he is going to be around for the 2019 World Cup.
India WWLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WLWWW
In the spotlight
Start time of 10 am on the weekend. Such an early start is okay for a Test or for an ODI, but defeats the whole idea of T20 as evening-time family entertainment. While this could affect the attendance at the stadium - healthy crowd is still important for the organisers - a prime time TV start for the Indian audience is what brings in the money from the broadcasters.
Sammy might not be playing these matches, but that can't spell much relief for the opposition. His replacement is the now-fit Kieron Pollard. He had an indifferent IPL and CPL after missing out on World T20, and will be looking forward to getting back in form.
Ajinkya Rahane does not feature in India's first XI when everybody is fit for a Twenty20 international. While India seem to have dropped Suresh Raina and haven't bothered with asking Manish Pandey to travel all the way from the A tour of Australia for just two three-hour games, Rahane is likely to get an opportunity to present his case.
India are likely to draft Mohammed Shami back in looking at his impressive comeback in Tests. Jasprit Bumrah should play. The other quick bowler could be a toss-up between Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav, depending on how much batting they need from the said bowler. It will be interesting to see how Dhoni goes with his spinners given how he wasn't very trusting of R Ashwin's offspin in the World T20 and in the IPL.
India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 KL Rahul, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 7 Stuart Binny/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8 Ravindra Jadeja/Amit Mishra, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mohammed Shami
Sunil Narine is back with a cleared action, and should take Sulieman Benn's place.*
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Andre Fletcher, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Lendl Simmons, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Kieron Pollard, 9 Carlos Brathwaite (capt.), 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Samuel Badree
Pitch and conditions
According to The Weather Channel , the 10 inches of rain so far this month in Miami makes it the eighth-wettest August on record. A magnificent lightning show danced across the Fort Lauderdale sky almost non-stop from 7 pm until well after midnight on Thursday. A tropical low currently just north of Haiti and nearing the Bahamas is threatening to develop into the Atlantic tropical season's eighth named storm as Tropical Storm Hermine. Preliminary forecasts are showing that if it forms into a full-fledged Hurricane, it may be on track to hit south Florida on Sunday.
Stats and trivia
In 2010 Lauderhill threw up a slow tacky surface, which produced only one score of over 100 in two matches, but there was more T20 entertainment in store in 2012 when West Indies piled on 209 and 177 to beat New Zealand.
The first-innings scores in the CPL matches in Lauderhill ranged between 206 and 137. Three of the six matches were won by sides batting first.
Dwayne Bravo is one wicket short of becoming only the third player to reach the double of 1000 runs and 50 wickets in T20Is. Shahid Afridi and Shakib Al Hasan await him at the club.
"The only thing that we are doing is that we will prepare as best as we can because India is going to be coming looking for revenge for the semi-final loss and we have to make sure that we are ready for whatever they bring to us."
West Indies coach Phil Simmons provides immediate context to the matches
"West Indies has always been a tough side, they are the T20 world champions. They are quality cricketers and have shown consistently how good they are and we had a tough match in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup as well. In terms of the quality that we are going to encounter, we are aware of that."
India coach Anil Kumble knows this West Indies side is slightly different to the one they beat in the Tests
*18.20GMT, August 26: The preview had erroneously mentioned Denesh Ramdin as part of the West Indies squad.