Windies would have had their hopes high at different stages during the first One-Day International against India in Guwahati. First, when they posted 322 for 8 after being asked to bat. And then, when they had Shikhar Dhawan in the second over.
But those hopes were first quashed, and then demolished ruthlessly by Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who scored centuries and extended their dream run together in ODIs. Targets in excess of 320 aren’t meant to be chased in the manner they did,in just 42.1 overs. As one of the commentators described the partnership, “it was like grabbing a candy from a child”.
Thus the big challenge for Windies will be to sustain their performances over a period of 100 overs in the second game in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. As clichéd as it might sound, they have to maintain a high level of performance in every department. They have to bat at least as well as they did in Guwahati. They have to bowl much better. They have to field even better. Only then can they stand up to this Indian team at home.
Windies can take inspiration from their batsmen’s performance in the first game. Opener Kieran Powell set the tone with a quick 51, before Shimron Hetmyer extended his dream beginning in ODI cricket with his third century in 13 games. Both left-handers took the attack to India striking at more than 130 and muscling the ball all over. Both could have ended with much more than they did; Powell quite needlessly lofted Khaleel Ahmed to long-on, while Hetmyer was unlucky to get a leading edge to deep square-leg while trying to sweep.
Windies had contributions from their middle and lower orders too, taking them to what seemed like a competitive score at one stage. But then, Kohli and Rohit had other ideas.
Windies bowlers struggled to exercise any sort of control over proceedings, with India’s captain and vice-captain toying around. But they did have their moments early on – debutant Oshane Thomas began by dismissing Dhawan in the first over and then regularly found the outside edges of Kohli, without any further luck. Once that phase passed, batting became easier than a cakewalk for the Indian duo. The spinners Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse too were ineffective, to put it mildly.
Windies will need more luck and find some way to get past the Indian top order and into the potentially shaky middle order.
Funnily enough, it might not be a bad thing for India if Windies do get past the top three. Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli have been doing the bulk of the scoring for India in the format, which is one of the biggest reasons for the middle-order conundrum. The first match should have been an ideal situation for India to test their batting depth in a 300+ chase, but they ended up winning by eight wickets with even the No. 4 not required much.
But India wouldn’t be too pleased with their bowling either. Four of their five bowlers conceded at more than six an over, with Mohammed Shami the most expensive with figures of 10-0-81-2. It was Yuzvendra Chahal who even kept the score to 322, with three crucial wickets for just 41 runs.
Majority of the wickets India got were down to Windies batsmen trying to force their way. Had they showed a bit more restraint, they could have well added a few more to their tally. Well, even that might not have been enough given the way Rohit and Kohli batted, but that’s a different story.
India went into the first game with three pacers and two spinners in Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja. They could have done it just to give Kuldeep Yadav a break and test out Khaleel Ahmed, but that could change in Visakhapatnam. It’s a venue where spin generally plays a big part. The last time India played an ODI here was in 2017 against Sri Lanka, when Kuldeep was the player of the match. One year earlier, Amit Mishra derailed New Zealand with a five-wicket haul.
India might well revert to their best spin duo of Kuldeep and Chahal at the expense of a pacer. They have named an unchanged 12-man squad for the second game; they really don't have any reason to change anything so soon.
It means the first ODI might have well been Windies’ best chance to challenge India. While they might be ruing the missed opportunity, here’s a bit of trivia that could lift their spirits: The last time these two sides met in this venue (2013), it was West Indies who defeated India.
India (12-man squad): Virat Kohli(capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, K Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav.
Windies: Jason Holder(capt), Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Fabian Allen, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Oshane Thomas, Obed McCoy, Kieran Powell.