With sights firmly set on next year’s World T20 in Australia, India will take on a depleted West Indies in a three-match T20I series starting 6 December in Hyderabad.
Even as India continues to swat aside oppositions without breaking a sweat, and rule the roost in the World Test Championship, the shortest format has proved to be a trickier bet for the Men in Blue this year.
Virat Kohli’s men have won just the two T20 series this year, both against depleted and dispirited units in the West Indies and Bangladesh. Furthermore, the format has shown the chinks in India’s armour, which looks near imperious in the Test format.
Yet, we might be nearing some lasting solutions for the problems that India has been having. Shreyas Iyer has staked claim to the No 4 spot with an impressive showing in the Bangladesh series, with scores of 22, 24* and 62 in the three matches.
Rishabh Pant’s woeful form will be a concern but with another specialist wicket-keeper Sanju Samson waiting in the wings, the selectors aren’t short of alternatives.
On the other hand, West Indies had a good start under the leadership of Kieron Pollard. They notched up their first ODI series victory since 2014, a 3-0 win against Afghanistan. However, losing 1-2 in the T20I series owing to some harrowing batting collapses will serve as a reminder of the blips which continue to exist in this ever-shuffling West Indian side.
Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo are not included in the West Indies squad which is largely the same as the one for the T20I series vs Afghanistan. It suggests some measure of faith reposed by the board in the talent held by this new-look bunch, the likes of Sherfane Rutherford and Fabian Allen, among others. Furthermore, it’s a shot in the arm for Pollard’s leadership.
The T20 format being the most unpredictable, player rivalries are bound to spice up this exciting three-match contest. Moreover, the fact that some players from both sides have played a fair share of cricket together in the IPL and we can be assured of some mind games as well. Here are the top five player battles which make upcoming India vs West Indies series, a promising one:
Virat Kohli vs Sheldon Cottrell
An impressive average of 45 at a healthy strike-rate of 139 against the Windies suggests that Kohli has had little trouble picking the Caribbean bowlers. However, left-arm fast bowler Sheldon Cottrell, the one with the army salute for a celebration, has dismissed the Indian captain a couple of times in three matches, the most among Windies’ bowlers. Cottrell’s average against the Indian captain reads an impressive 23. Considering that the West Indies have Cottrell bowling with the new ball from one end and it could prove to be a potent threat for the Indian captain who bats at No 3.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Evin Lewis
Bhuvneshwar's returns versus the West Indies in T20Is – six wickets in nine matches at an average of 34 – aren’t too flattering. However, what can be gleaned from the same is the Indian’s propensity of preying on Evin Lewis, who opens the batting for the Windies. Of the two occasions that both players have faced each other, Lewis has fallen to Kumar each time for a duck. While the Indian will certainly feel emboldened by this stat, Lewis will take heart from his recent form, where he struck 68 in the first T20I against Afghanistan to guide his side to a comfortable 30-run win.
Deepak Chahar vs The West Indies
MS Dhoni may not be playing but the national team continues to reap the benefits of the talents honed under him at Chennai Super Kings. Deepak Chahar’s sensational figures of 6/7 against Bangladesh in the third and final T20I of the series ensured that India won the decider convincingly. Those figures just happen to be the best in all T20Is. Also, four of Chahar’s wickets that night came in the death, while most others were struggling to grip the dewy ball. With the series against West Indies to be played in similar conditions with an evening start time, Chahar’s presence is bound to be disconcerting for the Windies batting order.
Lendl Simmons vs India
Simmons knows a thing or two about pulverising the opposition’s bowlers. Few can forget the 2016 World T20 semi-final, Simmons anchoring the West Indies’ chase of 193 against India with a breezy 82 of 50 balls. The home side’s hopes shattered while the team from the Caribbean went on to become ‘Champions’, all the while crooning to the eponymous Dwayne Bravo song.
A good run of form – he scored 70 of 39 deliveries in his last match in the Abu Dhabi T10 League, and the fact that India has been a favourite hunting ground for Simmons owing to years of experience playing in the IPL will make him one of the focal points of the India team meetings.
Kieron Pollard vs Rohit Sharma
Rohit can boast of a stellar record against the West Indies in T20Is – 425 runs from 12 matches at an average of 47 with the best score of 111 not out. The ‘Hitman’ juggernaut has made light work of most bowling attacks this year. Perhaps, where the brute pace has failed to do the trick, someone who’s played alongside Rohit could bring just the crucial bit of tactical acumen to ensure that the Indian doesn’t get going at the top of the order. Pollard and Rohit have been team-mates for the IPL side Mumbai Indians since 2011. That observance, year-on-year, from close quarters, could prove to be decisive when Pollard, who’s leading the Windies unit, is setting the field for the Indian vice-captain at the start of the innings.
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