After breezing through the two-match Test series with lopsided victories, the Indian players will look to dish out another set of clinical performances when they don their blue jerseys in the upcoming one-day international (ODI) series against the Windies.
The Test series panned out as expected, with both games ending inside three days as several questioned the relevance of the series as well as Windies' credibility as a Test side. The ODI series isn't expected to be any different, with Jason Holder's team having last won an ODI series (bilateral or multi-nation) four years ago against Bangladesh, against whom they also went down 2-1 in a three-match series at home earlier in July.
India, on the other hand, got another glimpse into Rohit Sharma's tactical nous as well as batting genius during the recently-concluded Asia Cup, with the 'Men in Blue' remaining undefeated throughout the course of the tournament to lift the title for the seventh time. The home team have announced a full-strength squad for the first two one-dayers, with a senior or two expected to be rested as the series progresses. The five matches that are to take place between 21 October and 1 November is expected to be an audition for the younger members of the squad, as well as a medium through which they can look to answer some of the questions that hover over the composition of their side in the build-up to the World Cup, that's less than a year away now.
The top order of the Indian batting unit was firing on all cylinders in the UAE last month, as openers Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan collected runs aplenty. And with the run machine Virat Kohli returning to his usual spot of No 3 for the first two matches, India can be assured of getting the starts that they want in the coming matches.
A big question mark, however, hovers over the Indian middle-order, with the spots between 4-6 being something of a conundrum for the selectors as well as the team management. While Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant have all shown the spunk to succeed at this level, it is the consistency that has been lacking on their part, that has led to this state of crisis in the first place.
Veteran wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni too hasn't been able to gather too many runs in the middle even if he's been at his brilliant best behind the stumps as always. Given that he takes his time to settle down at the crease in the twilight of his career, one would expect him to get an extended run at No 4, with a hard-hitting batsman in Pant collecting quick runs two positions below.
The spin trio of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja are expected to be among the key wicket-takers for the Indians. However, the spotlight will be on the pacers Mohammed Shami — a last-minute replacement for the injured Shardul Thakur — Khaleel Ahmed and Umesh Yadav as much as it will be on the slower bowlers. Khaleel was impressive on debut against Hong Kong, and will hope to present a case for overseas selection should he be among the wickets in the upcoming series. For Shami, however, his inclusion in the limited-overs side presents him an opportunity to revive his white-ball career.
The visitors suffered a body blow even before a delivery was bowled in the series with the exit of their explosive opener Evin Lewis, who flew back home due to personal reasons and will be missing the three T20Is in addition to the one-dayers. Lewis, a powerful striker of the ball, is seen as something of a successor to the veteran Chris Gayle, whose cricketing days seem limited to appearances in the T20 leagues across the world, and it will be some task for Kieran Powell, his replacement for the ODIs, to fill the void, given that his List A numbers don't inspire the confidence that the visitors are looking for. Which is also the challenge that awaits Nicholas Pooran, Lewis' replacement for the T20I leg of the tour.
There's also the question of pacer Alzarri Joseph's availability for the series. Joseph sat out of the Test series with his back problem still not appearing to have recovered completely.
"Powell and Pooran have been asked to replace Evin Lewis in the ODI and T20I squads; while McCoy will replace Alzarri Joseph, who remains under observation for his return to full fitness," read a statement by Cricket West Indies (CWI).
With a largely young and inexperienced squad, it is the senior members of the Windies side, who will have to take the responsibility, leading the way both on the field as well as in the dressing room, if they are to put up a fight against the second-ranked ODI side in the world. This is where skipper Jason Holder, veteran all-rounder Marlon Samuels as well as pacer Kemar Roach are expected to step up.
The one-day series has been in the news mainly for non-cricketing reasons so far, with second and fourth one-dayers getting shifted out of their original venues due to an ongoing dispute between the BCCI as well as the state associations hosting those matches. While the second ODI has been shifted from Indore to Visakhapatnam, the fourth ODI will now be hosted at the Brabourne Stadium, which is just a couple of blocks away from the Wankhede Stadium, where the match was originally supposed to be held. The BCCI, as well as the fans, will hope that the rest of the series plays out without another hitch.
India (1st and 2nd ODI): Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed
Windies: Jason Holder (c), Fabian Allen, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Oshane Thomas.
1st ODI: 21 October at Guwahati
2nd ODI: 24 October at Visakhapatnam
3rd ODI: 27 October at Pune
4th ODI: 29 October at Mumbai
5th ODI: 1 November at Thiruvananthapuram
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