India vs Windies, 4th ODI | India - 377/5 in 50 overs | Windies - 153-all out in 36.2 overs | India win by 224 runs
This is exactly the type of scorecard many would have expected to be the theme of the five-match One-Day Internationals between India and Windies. However, barring the fourth ODI, Windies have given the formidable hosts a run for their money in all the other encounters, and will step out at the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday (November 1) for the fifth and final ODI with a hope of levelling the series 2-2.
India lost the third match in Pune by 43 runs but the way they came back in Mumbai showed everyone why they are a world-class team. No, there was no customary century from Virat Kohli but it was Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu who blew away Jason Holder's men with their brilliance. While Rohit's batting was like a hot knife going through butter as he smashed a 137-ball 162, Rayudu hit his third ODI century in his own way. The two toyed with Windies bowlers and pushed India to a total of 377 for 5.
Rohit looked as flawless as ever but it was the performance of Rayudu that would have given more relief to the Indian team management. India have been looking for a No. 4 batsman ever since the conclusion of the 2015 World Cup and it seems like they have finally found someone who is "intelligent" enough to read the situations and bat accordingly. Rayudu, 33, became the first batsman from outside the top three to score an ODI century for India since January 2017.
There was a reason Kohli, ahead of the series, said that Rayudu is "designed" for that role and the Guntur-born batsman seems to be doing no harm to his reputation. Kohli himself had a rare bad day at the office but that would hardly worry him or the team. However, India will want Shikhar Dhawan to convert those starts into big scores.
The inclusion of Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja provided India the much-required balance and it seems like the team would like to carry on with the same formula till Hardik Pandya recovers from injury. Meanwhile, out-of-form MS Dhoni looked in decent touch in the last match and the Indian think tank will want the wicketkeeper-batsman to get some runs to his name considering he then will be out of international action at least till January 12 - Australia vs India, 1st ODI.
India's bowling coach, Bharat Arun though did not sound too worried about Dhoni's form insisting the former captain is one innings away from regaining his touch."I think he is of one of the legends of Indian cricket, his striking ability is there for everyone to see. He is extremely experienced I am sure given the opportunities, he would come really good," he said.
While the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who was dropped from the fourth ODI, have been amongst wickets, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has looked a pale shadow of himself this year. In 2018, the right-arm seamer has only managed 10 wickets in 13 ODIs at an average of 52.60. Bhuvneshwar is one of the key players in India's limited-overs outfit and it is important he finds his rhythm back with 2019 World Cup only a few months away.
"We have seen how good Bhuvneshwar has been for us in the white-ball cricket. He is going through some injuries and hasn't got back to that rhythm that you expect from him. He hasn't played too many games because of his back injury but I know he will get better as he plays more matches. We shouldn't really worry too much about him," former Indian pacer Ashish Nehra told Cricketnext.
Meanwhile, Windies would be really disappointed with the way they surrendered their weapons in Mumbai.
Their batting revolves around Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Holder and the moment they failed, Windies batting crumbles like a pack of cards. That's what happened in the fourth game. While Hope paid a price for going for a silly single, Hetmyer got a peach of a delivery from Khaleel. With senior players like Kieran Powell and Marlon Samuels struggling, it won't be a bad idea if Holder bats slightly up the order. The skipper has all the batting ingredients and by far has looked most comfortable against Indian spinners.
"West Indies have got four players - Hope, Hetmyer, Holder and Nurse - and they got to get some guys back in the team to play with them for us to have a chance," West Indies legend Brian Lara told Cricketnext. "How we are going to bounce back, there's just one game left and an opportunity to end the series with 2-2 scoreline is good enough for them to go out there and perform in Thiruvananthapuram."
In the bowling department, the likes of Kemar Roach, Holder, Keemo Paul, Ashley Nurse and Fabian Allen have failed to stop the Indian batting juggernaut. The key for them will be to not allow any of India's top-three batsman to bat till the 40-50 overs. If they can do that and expose India's middle-order early, Windies might have a chance in Thiruvananthapuram.
The match was earlier supposed to happen at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi, which has predominantly become a venue for football in recent years, and then had to be shifted to the Greenfield International Stadium in order to avoid potential damage to Kochi’s FIFA approved football turf.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), 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 (capt), 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.