Challenging times for serial killers India
In the home season packed with T20I fixtures against four opponents—Sri Lanka are due next month—keeping next year’s World Cup in mind, India have found the going tough.Updated: Dec 11, 2019 09:28 IST
For the third time in as many T20I series this season India find themselves heading into a decider, with the “unpredictable” and hard-hitting West Indies throwing up plenty of challenges for the Virat Kohli-led side.
In their first T20I assignment of this home season, India had to settle for a 1-1 draw with South Africa following their nine-wicket loss in Bangalore in the third T20I. In the next series, Bangladesh’s implosion in Nagpur in the third T20I handed India a 2-1 series win.
In the home season packed with T20I fixtures against four opponents—Sri Lanka are due next month—keeping next year’s World Cup in mind, India have found the going tough. Following the defeat to South Africa, India were surprised on a sluggish wicket in New Delhi by Bangladesh, who notched up their first-ever T20 win against their more more fancied neighbours.
Even when India won a game, they needed an act of individual genius—Rohit Sharma’s explosive 85 at Rajkot powered India to a series-levelling win in the second match against Bangladesh; against West Indies, in the first game, Virat Kohli’s stunning 94 not out fired India to a victory.
Otherwise, India’s build-up to the World Cup has been rocky so far, with four wins and three losses in seven matches.
The third and final T20I at Wankhede Stadium here on Wednesday is thus set to be another stern test for the Indian side that is grappling with issues ranging from setting up targets, ordinary bowling, sloppy fielding and lastly, how to contain the Caribbean batsmen who have smacked 27 sixes in only two matches (compared to the 11 hit by India).
One reason for the stuttering performances is that several inexperienced players were given chances—Kohli had made it clear at the beginning of the season that he wanted to use these matches as a platform to test out new players and combinations. India have also had to play without their first-choice bowling line-up with injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. The selectors even called up Mohammed Shami to beef up the bowling attack. India, reputed for being absolutely dominating at home, are yet to produce a bowling performance which would please their batsmen, who have found chasing easier than setting up totals.
“It does not matter if we bat first or bowl, but yes, of late our chasing has been good and not posting targets or rather, defending them,” admitted India vice-captain Rohit Sharma during his media interaction on Tuesday.
“(In the second T20I) it was a good target that we posted there but again it is a new set of guys, a lot of inexperienced players along with experienced players—but that is what every T20 team now has—a bit of inexperience, along with some experience. Those two elements need to come together to form a very composite side.”
The West Indies’ aggressive approach has yielded them two strong showings in this series—207 for five at Hyderabad and 173 for two—as well as a series-levelling victory in the last match at Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
Evin Lewis has been a key performer, but Lendl Simmons’ trait to hurt India in vital games is something that the hosts will have to watch out for.
The last time these two teams met here was in the semi-final of the ICC World T20 2016, a game in which Simmons’ rapid 82 negated Kohli’s laborious 89 not out, with the West Indies dishing out their power game to make it to the final.
Both the camps expect the Wankhede pitch to produce plenty of runs, and given how bowlers have gone about, India will have their share of worries.
“We have seen in the IPL and international cricket that totals over 200 can be chased here, it’s that sort of ground,” said West Indies head coach Phil Simmons on Wednesday. “You never know how much you have to (score)… when you are batting first. There is a lot to think about in this match because there is the dew factor too. I think any score is chaseable here.”
Simmons added, “I do not think twice about a Wankhede wicket, for every game it has been a brilliant wicket and brilliant matches.”
Sharna was affluent in his praise for this West Indies side, particularly his Mumbai Indians teammate Kieron Pollard, who has plenty of experience at this venue.
“West Indies are very unpredictable as a team; you never know what they can come up with on that given day, like we saw the other day,” Sharma said. “Even the first game, they played very well and it was Virat’s brilliance that got us over. But with West Indies, this is always expected and they play well as a team and now under the leadership of Kieron Pollard… I know Pollard really well and I know as a leader what he would be expecting from the team. It is a different team that we are seeing now, so yes, we have to be at our best when we play them.”