If it weren’t for a washout in Guyana during the first ODI, teams would have been either heading into a dead rubber or a decider (most certainly a dead rubber) for the final ODI of the series in Port of Spain.
The Indian side showcased their class on a testing wicket at the Queen’s Park Oval on Sunday to extend their winning run in their tour of America and the Caribbean.
First with the bat, skipper Virat Kohli rose to the occasion to commemorate his 42nd ODI century and also becoming the second leading run-scorer in the format from India, surging past Sourav Ganguly.
The uneven and sluggish nature of the surface forced Kohli to hold back his shots and alter his approach during the 120-run knock. The conditions even managed to ‘tire’ one of the fittest athletes going around in the world, but the Indian captain displayed supreme resolve to produce a match-winning performance.
While the rain seemed to improved the surface and helped the West Indies during the chase, hosts' self combustible nature brought down their aspirations of gaining an unassailable lead in the series.
At 148/3 in the 28th over, with set opener Evin Lewis and rising star Nicholas Pooran at the crease, the Windies looked right on course to chase down the revised target of 270 in 46 overs, before they lost four wickets in the space of two overs.
Credit to the Indian bowlers and fielders, particularly Kohli, who didn’t look one bit tired, while prancing onto snaffle Lewis off Kuldeep Yadav’s bowling. Later, it was the experience of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took three wickets in seven balls that flipped the game on its head.
It was all too a familiar sight for the hosts who had squandered from position of control once again. It happened a few times during the recently concluded World Cup as well. Be it falling 15 runs shy of Australia's total at Trent Bridge or a gut-wrenching five-run defeat against New Zealand or the 23-run loss against Sri Lanka, Jason Holder’s men have found it difficult to hang around long enough in a 50-over contest.
The 59-run loss to India in the second ODI prompted, coach Floyd Reifer to echo similar views, “Again, we were in front today and then we found a way to give away our wickets, so it's just a matter of us now learning from our mistakes and trying to dig deeper.”
Going into the third ODI, the home side will have a chance to level the series and prevent themselves from dropping to No 8 position in the ICC Men's ODI team rankings. The hosts need to learn to bide time in the white ball formats. They also require course correction especially in the middle overs to not let advantage slip from their hands.
Left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell has been in decent form since the World Cup and managed to bowl well compared to his fast bowling colleagues. The West Indies would love to avail the services of left-arm spinner Fabian Allen – who missed the second ODI due to illness – for the final ODI. His inclusion could provide much-needed boost for the side as he along side right-arm off-spinner Roston Chase could forge an instrumental pair in order to stem the run flow in the middle overs.
Meanwhile, West Indies face a dilemma with runs at the top of the order. Their leading ODI run-scorer Chris Gayle has been short on runs in this series with scores of four off 31 balls and 11 off 24 balls in the two innings. While their most reliable batsmen Shai Hope, too, hasn't enjoyed much success since his stellar show in the tri-series in Ireland. Last game's top-scorer for the West Indies, Lewis, was seen holding his calf every now and then – a niggle that has kept him out of action several times in the past – during his innings. There is a possibility that he may sit out, which would bring John Campbell into the XI.
For India, expectedly, the problems are fewer in number and severity, after Shreyas Iyer’s responsible 71 in the previous game the clamour to bat him at No 4 has only increased, while pundits tout that the No 5 slot would be more suited for the destructive Rishabh Pant.
With the series yet to be won, the ‘Men in Blue’ are unlikely to shuffle their XI, meaning Kuldeep will retain his place while Yuzvendra Chahal will return to India not having played a single game in the Caribbean.
Another subplot for Team India would be the form of opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has blanked in five innings since his return to the international side.
The same pitch from the previous game is set to be used for the final clash, which could once again challenge the batsmen towards the latter part of the innings, but with significant amount of rain expected throughout the day it makes a tricky proposition for Kohli and Holder, who will require a solid plan B to fall back on.
Full Team Squads
India Team Players:Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Lokesh Rahul, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal. Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Navdeep Saini, Khaleel Ahmed. Rishabh Pant (wk).
West Indies Team Players: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Jason Holder (c), Carlos Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Fabian Allen, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Shannon Gabriel, Sheldon Cottrell, Roston Chase, John Cambell, Keemo Paul.
The second India vs West Indies ODI will begin at 7 PM IST and will be broadcast on Sony Pictures Network.