Of late, India vs West Indies match-ups have been ordinary affairs, with the encounters often producing one-sided finishes. In fact, it seems like yesterday when Virat Kohli and Co dominated the West Indies across formats in the Caribbean back in August.
While the only T20 series the Windies have played since then is the recent one against Afghanistan, which they lost 1-2 in Lucknow, the Men in Blue are coming off a 1-1 draw against South Africa and a 2-1 comeback victory over Bangladesh.
However, the visitors are not to be written off this time around. The Caribbean Premier League (CPL), which concluded in October, produced a few up and coming stars-notably Brandon King and Hayden Walsh, both of whom are in the current T20I squad.
While King not only finished as the tournament’s highest run-scorer with 496 runs, he also made history by registering the highest individual CPL score — 132 for Guyana Amazon Warriors against eventual champions Barbados Tridents.
On the other hand, Walsh ended up as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker — with 22 scalps and he was instrumental in Tridents’ road to triumph.
Captain Kieron Pollard and opener Evin Lewis, meanwhile are very familiar with the Indian pitches thanks to their Indian Premier League (IPL) stint with Mumbai Indians. Undoubtedly, that will be a plus for the visitors going ahead to the T20Is.
The Windies squad also witnesses the return of Fabian Allen, who was ruled out of the Afghanistan T20Is after picking up a knee injury in the first match.
This will also be the perfect opportunity for the trio of Lewis, King and Hayden to replace the likes of Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite and Andre Russell, none of whom are in the squad.
Then, there is Denesh Ramdin, someone who has just scored 97 T20I runs between August 2018 and November 2019 in the seven matches he has played, but still somehow finds a place in the young and inexperienced set-up.
Nicholas Pooran will miss the series-opener on Friday due to an ICC suspension, which means it will be one more opportunity for Ramdin to prove his batting talent.
Speaking of which, apart from Ramdin, who has played 70 T20Is, only captain Kieron Pollard seems to have come closer to matching his experience, with his 65 T20Is. Even Jason Holder has only played 14 T20Is. So, it will be up to Pollard and Ramdin to play the role of team seniors and guide the young and inexperienced bunch against a strong Indian unit.
Their ICC World T20 triumph might have happened just over three years ago, but that seems long forgotten. Matter of fact: the two-time champions have only won 12 of the 39 matches they have played since then.
For hosts India, the biggest boost ahead of the series is the reunion of spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal — affectionately termed ‘KulCha’. It will be the first occasion this year when the duo will team up in a T20I, as India have tried out many different spinners in their place.
Krunal Pandya has been one of those who have been tried out — featuring in 12 T20Is this year. However, he went wicketless in the recent T20Is against South Africa and Bangladesh and was consequently dropped, the hosts then returning to the wrist-spinner combination.
One of those players who have had a positive outing in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy has been right-arm off-break bowler Washington Sundar. The bowling all-rounder has registered scores of 46, 45*, 38*, and 54* in a few of the Mushtaq Ali matches, while also taking six wickets.
In injured Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, it will be upto Bhuvneshar Kumar to find his rhythm back after a return from injury. In the two matches that he played for Uttar Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, he has only taken one wicket. Ironically, his last T20I came against the Windies in the Caribbean back in August and he has not played international cricket since.
Mohammed Shami, too, returns to the T20I side and will look to play his first T20I in two years, while Deepak Chahar has been the man of the moment in the pace bowling department.
Chahar, who finished with record-breaking figures of 6/7 in the final T20I against Bangladesh, is coming fresh from the Mushtaq Ali tournament where he picked 11 wickets and scored an unbeaten half-century in six matches.
Meanwhile, Shikhar Dhawan’s absence from the squad will come as a blessing in disguise for young Kerala batsman Sanju Samson. An injury-plagued Dhawan, who missed most of the World Cup, once again injured his left knee while representing Delhi in a Syed Mushtaq Ali Super League clash against Maharashtra.
Samson, who was named in the T20I squad for the Bangladesh series but did not get a game, has been reminding the national selectors with repeated performances. After notching up an unbeaten double ton against Goa in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match in October, his latest notable knock came in the form of a half-century in a Mushtaq Ali game against Rajasthan in November.
Middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer will be the likely candidate for the much talked about No 4 spot, especially after his unbeaten knock of 80 in a Mushtaq Ali trophy game in November.
Another point of heated discussion is that of Rishabh Pant, which seems to be never-ending courtesy his recent struggles.
Virat Kohli, however, has time and again supported the Delhi cricketer and his latest defence of Pant came on Thursday, ahead of the series-opener in Hyderabad.
Interestingly, both of Pant's half-centuries in T20Is have come against West Indies. He has also registered more double-figure scores (three) against Windies in the format than any other opposition.
What has let him down is his string of single-figure scores — 11 in 23 T20Is.
Whatever the outcome, neither of the teams will have any reason to panic because although the World T20 happens in Australia in less than a year, there is still time for experimenting potential match-winning combinations with a lot of T20I series lined up, and the Indian Premier League (IPL) next year as well.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.