Caribbean cruise

India goes to the West Indies sensingmore cricketing opportunities than threats
In the past, a tour of the West Indies was deemed the toughest endeavour for any cricketer. Reputations were either enhanced or lost and fractures seemed imminent in the battles against the fiery fast bowlers, while the crowds requested the perfume-ball, a euphemism for a nasty bouncer. But times change, and the inherent quality of the Caribbean squads has declined so much that a sporting visit to the isles with their sunny beaches is seen as an exercise towards etching triumphs, fattening batting averages and multiplying bowling yields. With this as the backdrop, India will fly halfway across the earth for a set of three Twenty20s — interestingly, two of them are being hosted in the United States of America — three ODIs and two Tests against the West Indies from August 3 to September 3. India will be the favourites across the three formats, though in limited overs games, where the abridged nature of the sport tends to iron out the flaws, the host might fancy its chances. The tour, coming as it does close on the heels of the World Cup in England, presents an opportunity for India to look ahead, make a few changes in personnel and prepare for the future. Transition always coincides with the quadrennial World Cup and India too is part of that global trend. Though he avoided retiring from the blue shade by preferring to serve the Army in his role as an honorary lieutenant colonel, Dhoni presented an opportunity to M.S.K. Prasad and his fellow selectors to fast-track Rishabh Pant as the first-choice wicket-keeper batsman across all formats. Dhoni, who retired from Tests in 2014, might still make appearances in the shorter versions, and there is speculation about next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia being his preferred last stop. But it all depends on what the selectors and Kohli prefer as they look at building the team afresh for the 2023 World Cup in India. The imminent West Indies tour will help the team management get a fair idea about the potential in the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey, Rahul Chahar, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar and Navdeep Saini, besides the other regulars. The opposition may be depleted, but for these players, hope floats and a crucial August awaits.

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