If it was their batting in the first two outings where they scored totals in excess of 300 plus that came to the fore, on Saturday at Maharastra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, the Windies showed they were an equally potent bowling unit as they bowled out India, who were chasing 284, for 240 to level the series 1-1. They now travel to Mumbai with renewed confidence and will be hoping for another good show at the Brabourne Stadium.
There were quite a few signs in the third ODI that showed the Windies were no pushovers. They found themselves on the wrong side of the toss third time running but batting first, they put up a par score with Shai Hope backing up a 123* in Visakhapatnam with another scintillating 95. He has found a more than a valuable ally in Shimron Hetmyer, who has scores of 106, 94 and 37 in the three games. That is alone 487 runs added by the duo out of the 926 scored by the visitors in the series so far - more than half of the total runs.
But make no mistake, it hasn't only been a two-man show. Be it Ashley Nurse, captain Jason Holder, or pacer Obed McCoy, the visitors have found someone at various stages of the series who has put their hand up in crucial times and delivered for the team. That air of confidence was visible post the third ODI with Marlon Samuels insisting the Windies were here not just to compete, but to win.
"I think we are going to take the next game even more serious and as long as we can be consistent in all three departments we will be looking to win the next games. We are not looking to compete anymore. We are looking to win," he said.
However, they still have a lot of chinks to iron out ahead of the crucial fourth ODI. Their batting bar Hetmyer and Hope has been lacking the tenacity to graft it out. Openers Chandrapaul Hemraj and Kieran Powell have got starts but haven't been able to convert it into anything substantial while Samuels and Rovman Powell have not had any impact with the bat as yet.
The bowling has been good from both pacers and spinners alike but they desperately need to figure out a way to dislodge Virat Kohli before he gets set. The Indian captain's scores so far in this series have been 140, 157* and 107 and the frightening bit is he has not given the opposition much of a chance during the three innings. Considering India's fragile middle-order and the absence of a genuine all-rounder if the Windies bowlers can manage to get rid of Kohli early, they have a good chance to skittle the hosts out for a much lower score.
Having said that, Kohli is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In Pune, Kohli became the first Indian to score three centuries in succession and he is primed to make it four on the trot in Mumbai.
Barring him though, India's batting so far has looked patchy to say the least. Rohit Sharma, after a majestic 152* in the first game has twice been dismissed cheaply while Ambati Rayudu has shown promise at No.4 but hasn't yet converted the starts into a big score. Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni and Rishabh Pant have all looked good in the limited time they have spent at the crease but have often thrown it away.
The biggest issue India face in the absence of Hardik Pandya, who is out injured, is an all-rounder. None of their batsmen can bowl while barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar, none of the other bowlers have the necessary skills with the bat. In the last game, India were fairly cruising at one stage needing 112 runs to win with seven wickets in hand but with Pant and Dhoni falling in quick succession Kohli suddenly found himself stranded at the other end with not a lot of batting left.
The selectors have drafted a fit-again Kedar Jadhav into the squad for the fourth & fifth ODIs keeping his all-round skills in mind and Kohli might want him into the Playing XI straight away in a bid to restore some of the balance of the side. The Indian spinners - Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav - have been quite effective but the way in which Hope and Hemyer, in particular, have dealt with them is a worrying sign for the hosts.
The one positive for India from the last game was the impressive return of Jasprit Bumrah after the pacer was rested from the first two ODIs. He found his channel from the get-go and was equally effective in the death returning figures of 4/35 in his ten-over spell. The same can't be said of his new-ball bowling partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar though who's return to the national side after being rested for the first two games was slightly tougher as he went for 1/70 in his ten overs. Bumrah though insisted Bhuvneshwar's form was not a point of concern.
"Bhuvi had a good start, but at times, things (go a bit off) towards the end. It happens. Bowling at the death is difficult," Bumrah pointed out. "It is not like every bowler will have good days. You cannot differentiate. He gave a bit of runs in the end, but they batted well."
All said and done Windies' strong showing in the last two games has brought some spice back into the series, which after the Test series and the first ODI looked improbable.
The conditions at Brabourne stadium is anyone's guess. The last time an ODI was played here was back in 2006 with Wankhede Stadium being the preferred choice by the BCCI in recent times. The fourth ODI was initially slated to be played at the Wankhede Stadium too but a rift between the MCA and CoA with regards to the new complimentary tickets policy has meant Brabourne Stadium will host its first international game since 2009. The surface here has generally been a good one to bat with spin likely to come into play as the day progresses.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey
Windies: Jason Holder (c), Fabian Allen, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Oshane Thomas, Obed McCoy
First Published: October 29, 2018, 8:00 AM IST