India-West Indies series: Job at hand needs to get done

  • Sai Prasad Mohapatra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 10, 2014 03:47 IST

A day before the Kochi one-dayer, skipper MS Dhoni spoke of tackling a few areas. The focus was already on Australia tour and the World Cup. And after the tough tour of England, West Indies seemed an opposition the hosts could take in their stride.

West Indies have become familiar in India with frequent tours but their performances too have had a familiar ring to it. The internal strife only pointed to a further distracted visiting side.

Dhoni, when asked at the toss about experiments in the team ahead of the World Cup, brushed aside the term, saying changes were only part of the attempt to make continuous progress. But after the humbling 124-run defeat, he had to address the old problems - form of his batting nucleus and failure of his key batsman, bowling woes in the death overs and failure of the spinners.

The series is no longer a luxury, build-up for bigger battles. It suddenly needs to be tackled first.

Lean spell

Virat Kohli heads home for Saturday's second match in Delhi, but he will be pre-occupied. Already a World Cup winner, he was in perfect position to go into the next as India's batting pivot. But England, and the swinging delivery, has dented his confidence. In Kochi, in far more benign conditions Jerome Taylor found some swing and it was enough to draw another edge from Kohli to slip. The wait to regain his batting swagger continues.

Starting with the England one-day series, he has scored 56 runs in five innings. Every successful chase of over 300 runs has one familiar hand, Kohli. It is this hand which has not been in control since June, to stop the ball from flying off the edge to slip.

"It's something I keep getting asked, and I don't have an answer," Dhoni pleaded helplessness. "You want all the batsmen to score runs, whether it's Rahane, Virat, Raina, me. Hopefully he will return to form as soon as possible. It's just a matter of time. This is something new for him - a lean phase - and hopefully he'll get over it." The skipper would want that to be fixed and forgotten.

And at this time of the year, an external agent acquires currency. Captains love it, but only when they are batting. Dew is bound to be a factor through the series, depending on who the victim is on that particular day.

Caught out

Dhoni, to protect his spinners from the impact of dew, elected to bowl, only to unwittingly expose his seamers to the coastal heat and oppressive humidity. "But it was very hot, the fast bowlers got a bit tired. I was not really able to rotate them to keep them fresh."

Ideally, a team should overcome such an issue. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has evolved into a wicket-taker early on, can't be used in the death overs due to lack of pace and inability to bowl yorkers of impact.

The plan to finalise a third spinner too didn't work as leg-spinner Amit Mishra's slower than slow deliveries were punched away by Samuels and Ramdin.

And India gave away 81 runs in the last 10 overs. And if 300-plus is a reality, then the form of the core batting unit is a must.

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