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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wanted: A ton from Sachin Tendulkar and Victory

The performance of the two English off-spinners against the West Indies on Thursday has made life easier for India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Going by what James Tredwell and Graeme Swann did at the Chepauk, Dhoni would be itching to unleash R Ashwin when India take on Darren Sammy & Co at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.

Though the Men in Blue would be keeping a close watch on the South Africa-Bangladesh match, to be played in Mirpur on Saturday, Dhoni will want to end India’s league campaign with a big win and carry that momentum into the knockouts.

A South African win in Mirpur will leave India fighting for the No 2 in the group. Conversely, an upset across the eastern border will give India an opportunity to top the group, provided they beat the West Indies.

India can be knocked out only if Bangladesh win in Mirpur and West Indies beat Dhoni & Co by a really huge margin. Keeping these equations aside, India will be looking to take full advantage of the spinning conditions.

The middle-order collapse in Nagpur has prompted Dhoni to make a few changes. Suresh Raina is all set to play his first World Cup game. Ashwin, his Chennai Super Kings teammate, will also play. Yusuf Pathan will most likely sit out.

Meanwhile, the focus will be on Sachin Tendulkar. The maestro is one hundred away from completing a century of centuries.

On the other hand, the West Indies would be kicking themselves for losing on Thursday. A Bangladesh win would make Sunday’s encounter a must-win match for the Windies.

Given that they have beaten a Test-playing nation just once in their last 13 ODIs, the West Indies would be looking to make amends. Their fate will depend on the form of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Kemar Roach.

It would be interesting to see how the West Indies try and stop an in-form Virender Sehwag. He may be nursing a sore knee, but there’s no way Sehwag would sit out of Sunday’s game.

Devendra Bishoo, who had a memorable debut on Thursday, could surprise India’s batting line-up. No matter what happens in Mirpur, Indians all over the world would be hoping for a triple treat — an Indian win, R Ashwin’s long-awaited World Cup debut and Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th international century.

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