On a belter of a wicket in Guwahati, West Indies and India produced a run-fest with the visitors forcing India to hit top gear in the opening ODI of the series. Spurred by Shimron Hetmyer's third ODI hundred, Windies racked up 322 which appeared competitive until Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli enjoyed another 200-plus stand to make the contest a lop-sided one. Here is our report card from the first ODI.
After a disastrous Test series, the Windies needed an almighty push to kick-start the limited-overs series and it came in the form of Shimron Hetmyer's composed, yet classy innings. The middle-order batsman was equally adept against pace and spin and took the Indian bowlers to the cleaners with some attractive shots all around the wicket. He stitched half-century partnerships with Rovman Powell and Jason Holder to take the Windies to their first 300-plus total against a Test playing nation in over a year.
Having lost Shikhar Dhawan early and with a daunting target in front of the hosts, Virat Kohli took the game by the scruff of the neck and counter-attacked to push the visitors to a corner. Even as Rohit Sharma took his time settling in, Kohli set the tempo with a 35-ball half-century. The race to the hundred took a further 53 balls but Kohli had done the bulk of the hard work by then.
Once he settles in, Rohit Sharma is a beast in this format of the game and he proved it yet again in Guwahati. Trailing behind Kohli for a long while in the 246-run partnership, Rohit Sharma waltzed away to 152 in 117 balls by the end of the innings to overshadow the Indian skipper to an extent. Rohit's king-size ODI record at home resumed with another epic knock at the onset of the ODI series.
With the Windies batsmen going big and Kohli's trusted ammunition, Kuldeep Yadav, missing, the onus was on Yuzvendra Chahal to curb the run-rate and pick up some wickets. The leggie has been criticised of late for his inability to restrict the scoring rate but with a huge responsibility on him, Chahal put out the best version of himself. He had the dangerous Marlon Samuels stumped for a two ball duck and proceeded to dent the visitors further with the scalps of Holder and Nurse.
With India expecting another walk on a bed of roses, Kieron Powell lifted the Windies with an aggressive approach at the top of the order. He was quick to utilise the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah and hit Umesh and Shami while tonking Chahal for a few. His half-century came up in no time and perhaps set the tone for the likes of Hetmyer and Holder in the middle-order.
While Holder's batting skills are widely acknowledged, what most often goes unappreciated is his ability to turn up time and again when the team needs him to. With Hetmyer losing his trusted ally in Rovman Powell just as the innings was gaining momentum, Windies needed their skipper to hold one end up. The all-rounder did better. He put Hetmyer on strike and did some hitting himself to help up the ante for the visitors. With the ball, Holder was tidy but failed to break the massive stand that eventually wrecked the Windies.
Jadeja ended Hetmyer's stay at the crease and perhaps saved the Indians more than a few runs in the death overs. The middle-order batsman was in marauding form and with Powell for company, the West Indies looked headed for 350-plus when Jadeja broke through with the scalp of Powell. He followed it up by sending back Hetmyer himself but wasn't all that economical in his quota of overs.
With the skipper, a day before the match, stating that Ambati Rayudu is in plans for the No 4 slot, India’s newest experiment at the position had a field day. He walked in with the game virtually done and dusted by a massive stand between Kohli and Rohit. He merely had to stay out there to take India over the line. This he did as he remained unbeaten on 22 in 26 balls. He might have tougher assignments as the series goes on unless the top three devour all of the overs.
A lot of Shai Hope's career has been about the swag and flair and little about substance. While his Test career reached a low in India, he seemed to have put that behind going by the way he began the innings at Guwahati. With some pleasing strokes early on, Hope teased to fire big but failed to carry on in the same vein. He was dismissed for 32 in 51 balls with his strike rate once again coming into focus.
The leg-spinner was milked around for fun by Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli and his only reprieve came when he had the Indian skipper stumped with the target within sight. Bishoo had an ordinary outing in the Tests and going by the first ODI, needs to work out a better plan to counter the wristy Indian batsmen on flat surfaces.
Powell walked in with Hetmyer looking for stability from one end and he provided that in a run-a-ball 22 that gave the Windies a firm grip on the game. Hetmyer flourished in his company and the duo cooked up a crucial half-century stand to give the innings a much needed boost. Powell was, however, dismissed before he could get into his Andre Russell mode. He might want to focus on converting his starts during the course of this series.
Missing the Test series, Roach returned to spearhead the Windies attack and was greeted by a flat pitch and two batsmen in the form of their lives. He bowled a decent opening spell but was murdered for 28 in two overs in his second spell. Windies need the veteran quick bowler to find breakthroughs early if they are to test India in the series.
Young Khaleel Ahmed had an impressive debut in the Asia Cup last month but on a flat surface, against a Windies outfit that seemed to have found their tempo in coloured clothing, Khaleel had his task cut out. His first two overs leaked 17 but the Sunrisers Hyderabad seamer was quick to learn from his mistakes and bowled three sharp overs in the same spell, giving away just 9 and picking up the big wicket of Kieron Powell.
Returning to the limited-overs fold after quite a while, Mohammad Shami struck early to ease the nerves. He had the debutant Hemraj Chanderpaul chopping on to the stumps and added the scalp of Shai Hope later to finish with a couple of wickets. Shami, though, was expensive in his opening spell and would hope he gets a longer run to find his feet in a format he once excelled in.
Windies had put up a pretty decent total on board and needed an early boost with the ball to truly establish their upper hand in the game. This came in the form of 21-year old debutant, Oshane Thomas, who sent back Shikhar Dhawan in his very first over. Thomas cranked up the pace and produced a top nut at 147 kmph to cramp Dhawan for room and eke out a mistake. His early breakthrough put the Windies ahead but since then the debutant had a forgettable day, leaking runs at 9 an over.
When the spots for the World Cup come into discussion, it is likely to be a toss up between Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami. While Umesh has the extra zip favouring him, Shami is ahead in terms of adding variety to the attack. He also has a better ODI career record which makes this series all the more important for Umesh. That kind of seriousness was lacking in his performance on Sunday and the new-ball bowler might want to rethink his plans before India decide it is time to drop him for a third spinner.
While he has had an exceptional year in ODIs, Dhawan will rue the fact that on a batting paradise, he missed out with a single-digit score. The flashy Delhi opener has been in scintillating form this year in ODIs with three tons and two half-centuries. He was expected to make the most of a listless Windies attack on a flat surface. Instead, he chopped on to debutant Thomas, failing to counter the extra pace on the ball.
Despite being one of West Indies’ most trusted ODI bowlers of late, Ashley Nurse had a dreadful day on a pitch that offered him little. With Rohit and Kohli in full bloom, Nurse was smashed around for fun and appeared completely helpless. His seven overs leaked 63 but he is likely to get a longer rope with the pitch playing it's part in his horror show.
Samuels’ experience was supposed to be a huge factor for Windies in this series but with Hetmyer firing and the visitors looking for an anchor in the middle overs, the senior batsman disappointed. In his 200th ODI, Samuels ended up playing a half-hearted prod against Chahal and walked back for a two ball duck.
With Jason Holder making it clear that Chris Gayle would play until the World Cup, the other opening spot is perhaps up for grabs. However, with Kieron Powell hitting a lot of right notes in India in this series, debutant Hemraj Chandrapaul, who has the task of living up to his surname, needed to make a mark early. He failed to do so in the opening ODI, chopping on for 9 off Shami, but is likely to get a few more games to make his case.
Note: Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni were not rated owing to their minimal contribution in the game.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor