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India vs West Indies: India Seek Middle-Order Relief Against Inconsistent Hosts in Series Opener

Cricketnext Staff |August 7, 2019, 6:18 PM IST
India vs West Indies: India Seek Middle-Order Relief Against Inconsistent Hosts in Series Opener

Search for India's One-Day International middle order, the next chapter. That could well be the theme of India's campaign as the ODI leg of the West Indies tour gets underway on Thursday (August 8) in Guyana.

It was a question that haunted them in the World Cup and the months leading to it. It's a question that has been unanswered even after the end of the World Cup. Virat Kohli himself had a wry smile when asked about it before his departure to West Indies, saying he wished he had a crystal ball to solve the puzzle. Kohli, though, stressed all was well with the middle order.

But clearly, all is not well. For starters, they've got to plan for the post MS Dhoni era. Rishabh Pant, the sole wicketkeeper in the squad, is set to get a long run. And then, they've got to identify the number four, for which the auditions continue with the three-match series. All eyes will be on Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer, the comeback men to the one-day set up. Those two might have to wait though, as KL Rahul could get the first go.

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

India will be glad that Shikhar Dhawan is back, after missing most of the World Cup with a finger injury. It means Rahul will be pushed to the middle order, where he began in the World Cup before Dhawan's injury forced the change to the top. India haven't made drastic changes to their line-up, but some key positions could be up for grabs for the short term. Hardik Pandya's absence, for instance, gives someone else a go in the middle order. Will that be Iyer, Pandey or Jadhav?

The series is only three matches long, which means the middle order might not get a big chance if the top three fire. It's imperative that India show patience and consistency in such scenarios - something they failed to do in the months leading to the World Cup.

India's bowling is more or less settled, although Jasprit Bumrah gets a well deserved break. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are potent enough, and Navdeep Saini could add the excitement factor for the tour.

Despite missing a couple of key players in Pandya and Bumrah, and despite playing away, India are the favourites for the series. West Indies lack the consistency, which was evident in the World Cup. They threaten in parts and phases, but maintaining it for long times is their challenge.

West Indies too haven't made too many changes to their side, despite the poor World Cup campaign. They have added a couple of bowling all-rounders in Keemo Paul and Roston Chase, who could be handy. The crux of the side remains same, with Chris Gayle still hanging around.

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West Indies do have the firepower - Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran. They've also got a calm head in Shai Hope, apart from the ever reliable Jason Holder. On paper, this is a brilliant mix. If only they can get their act together on the field. Take out Gayle, and this is the future that could well revive West Indies cricket in the years to come. It's time to start, though.

The bowling unit is more or less the same too, with Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell and Kemar Roach handling the pace attack along with Holder. Spin was their weakness in the World Cup, and is likely to remain so in the India series as well. Chase does add some off-spin, but it's not likely to threaten the right-handers dominated Indian batting line up.

India come into the series on the back of a series sweep in the T20Is. West Indies hardly challenged India then.

Hopefully they can in the ODIs and the Tests that follow.

Probable XI:

India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (capt), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer/Manish Pandey/Kedar Jadhav, Rishabh Pant (w), Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini.

West Indies: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (w), Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Roston Chase/Keemo Paul, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas, Kemar Roach.

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