Seven. Yep! That’s India’s winning streak against the West Indies in Twenty20 International cricket. The two-time World champions have suffered the ignominy of successive whitewashes (0-3 in 2018 & 0-3 in 2019) at home, but on Friday, for the first time in a while now, it looked like the West Indies were indeed playing to their reputation and can possibly beat the Men in Blue and break the ordeal.
It wasn’t to be though courtesy another outrageous performance by that ruthless and at times poetic run-machine masquerading as a batsman called Virat Kohli. The Indian captain played an innings what can be aptly called as a tale of two distinct halves. While the first half saw him graft his way with strokes bereft of any sort of timing, the other saw the Indian superstar at his brutal best.
But amidst all the sixes, gobsmacking, and in Kohli’s case sumptuous strokeplay, one must not forget that barring Yuzvendra Chahal or Sheldon Cottrell, none of the bowlers had a day to remember with the ball. While the dew did not make it easy, the inconsistency in lengths and lack of discipline and in India’s case especially, sloppy fielding, meant the bowlers didn’t help themselves.
And Kieron Pollard acknowledged that in the post-match press conference as one of the prime reasons for his sides’ defeat. The West Indian bowlers gave away 23 extras in their innings, something which you can’t really afford especially when the conditions- with all the dew around- are heavily skewed in the batsman’s favour.
With this being a three-match series, West Indies have to improve, and fast, if they are to challenge the Indian batting line-up and enforce a series decider. As for India, it will be all about doing their process with aplomb. Their bowling and especially their out-fielding wasn’t up to the mark in Hyderabad, something they’ll look to improve on, come Thiruvananthapuram.
India’s top-5 look fairly settled with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul opening the innings followed by Virat Kohli at three, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant at four and five depending upon the situation of the game. The real question is around the makeup of their spin bowling and all-rounder’s department.
Will they again go with the defensive option and play both the off-spinning all-rounder in Washington Sundar and Ravindra Jadeja? Or will they again reunite the leg-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal?
There are two-fold reasons why India should play both wrist spinners. Firstly, these wickets are really flat and Chahal- whose twin wickets of Hetmyer and Pollard was the real difference between India chasing 230 than what they eventually did showed that wrist-spinners don’t need a turning pitch to be effective.
Secondly, West Indies struggled against leg-spin big time, as evident from the first T20. On current form, Jadeja could leapfrog Sundar, if India does go down that route of playing two wrist-spinners. As far as fast bowling is concerned, the duo of Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will hope to redeem themselves after a poor outing in Hyderabad.
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (WK), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar/Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Yuzvendra Chahal.
The West Indies had a great outing with the batting in Hyderabad. Barring Lendl Simmons, each of their batsmen got runs. And, with Nicolas Pooran again available for selection after having served his four-match ball-tampering ban, it is set to have even more firepower in Kerala.
But, it was their bowling that let them down in the series opener. Kesrick Williams had a game to forget and Pollard might be tempted to bring in Keemo Paul in the set-up. Whether it comes at the cost of one of the spinners or Williams is the conundrum the team management will have to find a way to resolve.
Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicolas Pooran (wk), Kieron Pollard (C), Fabian Allen, Jason Holder, Sheldon Cottrell, Kesrick Williams/Keemo Paul, Hayden Walsh Jr
Focus will be on
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (India)
After a long injury layoff, Bhuvneshwar Kumar made his return to active cricket in the first T20I. The outing, however, didn’t turn out to be a fruitful one for one of India’s premier white-ball bowlers. Bhuvi went for 36 in four wicketless overs, but more than his numbers, it was his inability to nail his yorker and consistently bowl length deliveries at the death, that came as a surprise. The champion fast bowler will look to redeem himself in the second fixture.
Nicolas Pooran (West Indies)
One of the most exciting white-ball talents going around in International cricket currently, Nicolas Pooran will be back into the mix. West Indies missed the firepower that Pooran brings in the middle-overs in the recently concluded Afghanistan series and the first T20I. The southpaw will be one of the few players to watch for, come the second 2nd T20I.
7– India’s current winning streak against West Indies in T20I cricket.
1– No of wickets Yuzvendra Chahal needs to take to become India’s leading wicket-taker in Internationals T20. Chahal is currently locked with Ravi Ashwin- both of whom have taken 52 T20I wickets.
122– The strike-rate of West Indies batsmen against wrist-spin since 2018.
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Match Timings – 19:00 local time, 13:30 GMT
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