Cuttack: India have everything going their way as they head into the third and final ODI against the West Indies on Sunday eyeing a 10th straight bilateral series win over the Caribbean side.
The West Indies took the home side by surprise in the opening ODI in Chennai to go one-up in the three-match series. But India, riding an all-round display, came back strongly to restore parity in the second match.
Barring a rare duck from skipper Virat Kohli, the Indian top-order fired in unison at Visakhapatnam, before hat-trick hero Kuldeep Yadav sliced through the West Indies line-up for a comprehensive 107-run victory.
Three days after his blazing 159, Rohit Sharma stood just nine runs short of eclipsing former Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya's 22-year-old record of being the highest run-scorer as an opener across all the formats.
KL Rahul also struck a sublime century in a 220-run opening stand to firmly stake his claim as a long-term opener for India.
Opening the innings since the India-Pakistan World Cup clash in June, Rahul has made steady progress. In the recent assignments against the West Indies, he has been a revelation, scoring runs at will.
Then the duo of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant chipped in with brisk knocks, and they would like to end the year on a positive note.
In bowling, Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini is in line to make his ODI debut in the absence of the inured Deepak Chahar, who was ruled out of the match with a lower back problem.
The fielding, though, has failed to match the high standards India have set in recent years.
While Iyer's effort to dismiss Shimron Hetmyer was eye-catching, Chahar dropped a sitter off Nicholas Pooran and grassed Shai Hope for a duck at the slip cordon, something that attracted Kohli's attention.
"We can't be dropping the catches and we should be better off in this department, improve on our mistakes. You should enjoy fielding." the visibly-concerned Indian captain said.
The pitch at the Barabati Stadium is going to be similar to the one in Visakhapatnam, offering plenty of runs.
The left-right combination of Hetmyer and Hope plotted India's downfall in Chennai and had it not been for a brilliant throw from Iyer to run out the former in Visakhapatnam, the Windies would have put up a strong fight in the second ODI.
Hetmyer, who struck a career-best 139 in Chennai, was over the moon and danced in excitement after being bought for Rs 7.75 crore by Delhi Capitals in the IPL auction.
His teammate Sheldon Cottrell also took home a hefty paycheck after the left-arm pacer was bought for Rs 8.5 crore by Kings XI Punjab, and the Windies duo will be bolstered by that.
Hope, who is second only to Rohit in the run chart this year, will look to make a statement after the wicketkeeper-batsman went unsold at the auction.
Kieron Pollard's team had no hesitation in chasing after winning the toss in the first two ODIs but come Sunday, the teams will be thinking twice before bowling second keeping the dew factor in mind.
The West Indies, at the same time, will be keen to end a 13-year long wait to win against India in a bilateral ODI series. While the hosts, who lost to Australia 2-3 in their last bilateral series in March, will have their reputation at stake.
They have not lost two consecutive bilateral ODI series at home in the last 15 years.
The last time an ODI was played here more than two years ago, India had pipped England by 15 runs while defending an imposing 382.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shivam Dube, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey and Navdeep Saini.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (capt), Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Keemo Paul, Alzarri Joseph, Khary Pierre, Sheldon Cottrell, Sunil Ambris, Brandon King, Romario Shepherd and Hayden Walsh.
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After Sharma’s dismissal, India didn’t score a run for 32 balls. In hindsight, Sharma was right that if he didn’t take on the bowling then the scoring rate would stagnate. But somewhere there had to be better game awareness.
Rohit Sharma understands the disappointment with his shot on Day 2 of fourth Test but in his defence would explain why he went for that kind of a high-risk stroke.
Rahane, Shastri, star batsman Rohit Sharma, pacer Shardul Thakur, and opener Prithvi Shaw landed in Mumbai, while Brisbane Test hero Rishabh Pant arrived in Delhi early this morning.