West Indies v India
Thursday June 27, 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and on Betfair Live Video
West Indies battling for pride
West Indies' hopes of a top-four spot disappeared when Carlos Brathwaite's incredible innings against New Zealand ended in heroic disappointment. They could get to nine points with three wins, but other sides will also accrue points to ensure Jason Holder's team return home empty handed. Their first-game demolition of Pakistan at this World Cup and all the excitememt that followed seems a long time ago.
Pre-tournament West Indies were one of my fancies to reach the semi-finals but their campaign never clicked. They appeared to believe their own hype after bouncing out Pakistan and seemed a one-trick pony with a pace attack that served up chin music but couldn't contain.
Sheldon Cotterrell has been consistent with the ball, including his double strike in the first over against New Zealand. Kemar Roach was consistent with no reward against the Kiwis and West Indies miss a potent frontline spinner. Young speedster Oshane Thomas has been quick and hostile, but he's raw and sometimes expensive.
All-rounder Andre Russell, who could have illuminated the competition, has finally been with drawn due to injuries and replaced by batsman Sunil Ambris. Evin Lewis (hamstring) is also missing and Ambris is likely to go straight into the side. He could accompany Chris Gayle at the top of the order and one question remains - can the Universe Boss bow out of World Cup cricket with one last hurrah?
India now tournament favourites
England's woes have led to many people jumping ship from the host nation and backing India to claim the trophy. Virat Kohli's men have most bases covered. Four batsmen currently average over 60 for the tournament and five bowlers boast an economy rate of under five runs per over. It's a healthy position to be in despite the big loss of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan from the tournament.
Mohammad Shami took the headlines in the latest of India's four wins against Afghanistan after replacing the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The comeback kid claimed a hattrick with the last three balls of the match as an embarrassing defeat to the tournament's whipping boys was averted. What could have been a disaster will become a footnote if Kohli has the trophy in his hands come mid-July.
The Afghanistan win highlighted India's long tail and the need to bat sensibly and slowly if early wickets are left. Taking early wickets against them is a big ask however, with a top order including Rohit Sharma and Kohli himself. But with big hitting Hardik Pandya at number seven, early strikes are the only way to restrict the Indians.
India short for a reason
The price of 1.321/3 on an India win seems restrictive, but few will see an inconsistent and injury ravaged West Indies as a value play at 4.003/1. West Indies have a better head-to-head record than their opponents but that largely dates back to their dominant sides of the 1970s and 1980s. They lead 62-59 in ODIs but India took the last series 3-1 at home, with a high scoring tie the eye-catching fifth result. The short price on India is about right but not appealing enough for me to wade in.
Don't get suckered into thinking Carlos Brathwaite is a play to repeat his hundred heroics in this game. The big hitter produced one of the all-time great knocks against New Zealand to take his team within inches of success, but that was only his second ODI fifty-plus score and at 12/1 he doesn't hold any appeal.
Chris Gayle leads this market at 13/5 and might enjoy getting one over on his IPL adversaries, but his fitness problems make a big knock unlikley. He has 194 runs at 38.50 at this World Cup and his top score of 87 came in the last match, but he's too short and too untrustworthy. I'm a big fan of Shai Hope (100/30), Shimron Hetmyer (4/1) and Nicholas Pooran (9/2) being the future of West Indies cricket and will take Pooran to top score purely for the price. The left-hander has 163 runs at 40.75 in his five innings to date and is a more consistent pick than his more hit or miss colleagues.
Rohit Sharma is an exceptional player. He has brought his A-game to England and has already hit two centuries and a fifty in his four knocks to date. He should like the ball coming on to the bat from the Caribbean quicks and at 5/2 is a very sensible play to top score for his team.
The other play is with Virat Kohli, the best batsman in world cricket, the skipper has yet to notch a tournament ton and will be keen to join the party. He has scored 244 runs at 61.00 and looks in great nick and I can find no reason to put you off. I'm taking Rohit however, as he opens and, if he gets in, has a tendency to go big.
Win or lose, the West Indies know only one way. They have power hitters throughout, particularly if it is Chris Gayle's day. And at 8/11 to notch more sixes than India, this is my bet of the day.
As always, I'm selecting three star turns at half stakes to be the Man of the Match. On the basis that India will win, I'm taking Virat Kohli at 5/1, Jasprit Bumrah 8/1 and Hardik Pandya at 17/1. Pandya is yet to have the massive impact his talent demands and he is a threat in all areas of the game.
Follow James on Twitter @cricket_badger