Having won the first two ODIs, India are the favourites to win the third match at Motera and thereby clinch the five-match series. However, it is not an easy task for the home team, who will be hoping that West Indies do not spring any surprises like they did during the first couple of matches.
Ground facts: India have played a total of 13 ODIs at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad and have won only six times here. But the hosts will not be thinking about that and instead will be wanting to reflect on the November 2002 match they played against West Indies here when they chased down a mammoth target of 325 with 14 deliveries to spare. The Indians will also be basking in happy memories of Motera after their quarter final win against the Aussies in the 2011 World Cup at this ground. Meanwhile, the Caribbean team too will be eager to play at Motera because they have lost only once against India at this ground while registering three wins against them here.
India: While it is a fact that India are 2-0 up in the series, the scoreline is lot closer than what it suggests. India, despite having won both the matches, did not quite cruise to victories. In the opening match, they were left nine down for 201 while chasing a relatively easy target of 212 and it required the tail-enders Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav to score the remaining 11 runs. In the second match, India, having asked West Indies to bat first, had reduced them to 170/9 before Ravi Rampaul's heroics helped the Caribbean side to 269/9. India did manage to chase the total down with five wickets and 11 deliveries to spare, but not without early and late jitters.
One thing similar with the first two ODIs is the batting performance of the Indian team. The top order, consisting of Virender Sehwag, Parthiv Patel and Gautam Gambhir, failed to come up with a decent showing with the bat on both occasions and it required the efforts of Rohit Sharma to help the team through. The Mumbai batsman had Ravindra Jadeja's help in the opening match to get India closer to the target and then aided Virat Kohli in the second ODI to make it 2-0 for India. India will be pleased with the form of Rohit Sharma who has back-to-back half-centuries under his belt, and Virat Kohli, fresh from registering his 8th ODI ton. However, the home team will be concerned with the form of the top three, especially that of Sehwag and Gambhir. With the Australia tour fast approaching, Indian coach Duncan Fletcher will be hoping that the duo get back to their run-scoring ways sooner than later as the team will be banking on them for good starts during the trip Down Under. The other concern is Suresh Raina, who has also failed twice in this series. While his form will not have much of a bearing on the India-Australia Tests, it is imperative that he stays in good touch as he will have a vital role to play in the ODI tri-series that follows the four Tests.
As far as India's bowling is concerned, it has not been much of a worry as the likes of Vinay Kumar, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav have been doing decent jobs as have the spinners R Ashwin and Jadeja. But their one worry will be that they could not contain a belligerent Rampaul in the second ODI which again points out to India's inability to complete a rout. Over the years, Indian bowlers on many occasions have reduced sides to five-down or six-down without much of a total on board. However, their failure to run through the oppositions has meant that teams have been able to spring back and post competitive totals. Speaking of the current series, R Ashwin's expensive outing in the 2nd ODI may not be a big cause of concern. However, the team will be hoping that he does not give away too many runs in the upcoming matches as he is the main spinner for the side and a dent in confidence can affect his future performances.
West Indies: Although they are no longer a cricket team which is feared by the rest of the world, West Indies have shown time and again that they are not a side to be taken lightly. They have reiterated this fact with their spirited performances in the Indian tour, despite not tasting any success. Having said that, West Indies are also to be blamed for the losses as they lacked the killer instinct and failed to go for the throat and close it out in spite of getting multiple opportunities to do so. In the opening ODI, they had reduced India to 59/5 before letting the opposition back in the game due to lack of proper game thinking - Inappropriate field placing, not using the right bowlers and failing to read the situation properly meant that India ended up winning the first match which belonged to West Indies for most part. Even in the second game, they had removed the top three early but could not continue pegging away at the Indians.
The West Indian top order has failed to deliver in the two ODIs so far and this will be a big concern for the team management. Barring Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, the rest of the Caribbean batters have not had a good run in the series. In Adrian Barath, Marlon Samuels, Danza Hyatt and Kieron Pollard, West Indies have a powerful batting order but lack of runs from these players has affected the side a lot. West Indies had Ravi Rampaul to thank for his robust 86 that helped the team post a competitive total in the second match. However, his role is that of a bowling spearhead and as a bowler, he will be disappointed with the performance of his batting colleagues. Another cause for concern is the role of Darren Sammy. He is a decent bowler, capable of producing regular breakthroughs, but as an allrounder, his ability to bat is also crucial for the team and the skipper has let the team down in that role. He has failed twice in this series and his batting position is also a worry. With a talented all-rounder like Andre Russell coming way down the order, West Indies might think of letting Sammy bat below Russell in the interests of the team.
The West Indian bowlers have been doing fairly well with the ball although their lack of penetrativeness and their inability to act according to situations remains a concern. No doubt that there is quality in the bowling department with the likes of Rampaul and Kemar Roach leading the pace attack while Russell, Sammy have also been good with the ball. West Indies though need to rethink their spin attack. While Marlon Samuels has kept things tight from one end, he needs one more spinner who can make use of the situation to the team's advantage. In the opening game, Samuels did have Anthony Martin for support, but the latter did not play a major role. West Indies decided to go only with Samuels in the second match, opting for a more seam-laden attack. But that was not the right way to go about it as there were three similar medium pacers in Sammy, Russell and Pollard apart from Rampaul and Roach, which meant that there was hardly any variety in the bowling attack. West Indies need to include an extra spinner in the remaining games who can be create an impact and a young Sunil Narine would perfectly fit the bill. He needs to be included in the eleven even if it means that a quality allrounder, be it a Pollard or Russell, is left out.
Final word: Despite some hiccups, India have been on top West Indies in this series. Unless West Indies do something out of the ordinary or India cave in miserably, it is likely to be a series-clinching result in favour of the home team at Motera.