We have seen some fantastic images coming from the West Indies, players relaxing in the gym, snorkeling, diving, etc. These are the delights of travelling to the Caribbean, even if you are on a serious cricketing assignment like the Indian team is.
I have been there on a few tours and I can tell you that it can get very, very exciting. The lifestyle of the Caribbean tells you why it has always been such a great destination for holiday-makers. Such diversions are also good in an international sports assignment. You do need time-out, you do need rest and recreation.
There should be no compunction in going out and enjoying yourself as long as the primary commitment of playing the international series and doing well is not overlooked.
There are some strong signs that the meticulous and methodical man in Anil Kumble, the new chief coach, has already put into practice some systems and processes for the players, including yoga sessions. Fitness is a big thing with Kumble.
However, the most newsworthy has been the 50-dollar fine for late-comers who keep the team bus waiting.
It's not the amount of money, surely, for 50 dollars would be loose change to modern cricketers. That's not the point; being admonishment is the issue. If you get identified as a player who has kept the team bus waiting to go to the ground or wherever else, then you are actually sending a disturbing signal in the environment, as it were, which needs to be corrected.
It's about discipline, about respect for others' time. It's about reaching the ground on time and getting on with practice or whatever is the drill.
This is good move by Kumble. While he has expressed that he wants to give the freedom to do things that they want, he has also started putting in processes that they respond to his own sense of discipline and practice. These are strong attributes in any successful cricketer and the Indian players need not look beyond Kumble for inspiration.
So we have got a three-day match coming up from Thursday, the last warm-up game before the first Test (from July 21). While Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will be looking for some runs, more crucial for India is to sort out the bowling combination.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will surely get longish spells to see how they've adjusted. Pitches in the West Indies are not what they used to be. They play slower and lower these days, so spin will be an important factor in India's attack. The fast bowlers playing in this match should give us a clearer idea of who is going to play the first Test in Antigua.
The West Indies team has been announced. Denesh Ramdin and Kemar Roach are not there, Jerome Taylor has retired. Barring Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo, the squad is bereft of deep experience. On paper, India are certainly stronger and favourites going into the series.
But in sport it would be foolish to disregard the underdog. The West Indies have little to lose, India have a lot to prove.
It begs the question which side will be under greater pressure.
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