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With Fast Bowling Spearheads Back, India Hope to Contain Rampaging Windies in Pune

India bringing in Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar into the squad for the last three One-Day Internationals against Windies after resting them just two games earlier perhaps shows how differently they view the opposition two matches into the series.

If India had taken Windies a little lightly before the ODI series began, it wouldn’t have been without reason. Windies struggled in the Test series prior to the limited-overs, and have been very poor in the ODI format over the last year or so. India, on the other hand, are consistently on top in the format and came off a victory in the Asia Cup even without their captain Virat Kohli.

The gap between the two sides has reduced at least by a little margin over the first two matches. India are very much the better team, but Windies have shown they aren’t pushovers. Their batsmen have posted 321 and 322 in the Guwahati and Visakhapatnam respectively. Their bowlers weren’t up to the mark in the first game and ended up losing by a big margin, but the contest was much stiffer in the next which ended in a tie.

What was most striking was the Windies players’ reactions after Shai Hope’s last-ball boundary resulted in the game ending in a tie. Nobody celebrated. Nobody was content that they managed a tie against the No. 2 side in the world. It was a game they should have won, and their reactions showed exactly that. It showed a belief that they cannot just compete, but also win.

That belief has largely been carried by young Shimron Hetmyer. The audacious batsman has scores of 106 and 94 in the two games, and has taken India by surprise with his hitting in the middle overs. His strike-rate of 140.85 and tally of 13 sixes tells the story of his batting. What augurs well for Windies is that Hetmyer isn’t the only one among the runs.

Hope came to the party in the second game with a composed century, holding the chase together and taking it till the very end. For a long time now, he has been scoring pretty 30s, and his knock in Visakhapatnam could change the way forward. He couldn’t quite finish the job to perfection, but that’s a small blip in an otherwise tremendous show.

What Windies need now is a bit more support from the other batsmen. Kieran Powell made a half-century in the first match and his opening partner Chanderpaul Hemraj scored a quick 32 in the next. They’ve got to take cue from Hetmyer and Hope, and stretch their cameos. The experienced Marlon Samuels and young Rovman Powell too need to do more.

Windies’ bowling showed good improvement from the first game too. Spinners Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo were much better in the second game, although the pacers ran into one Mr. Virat Kohli. There was little anyone could do when the latest batsman to 10000 ODI runs is in that sort of a mood. Windies did well to get rid of two of the top three Indian batsmen, and if they can get the third one early too, the story could be different. Easier said than done though.

India will be pleased that the scoreline is still 1-0. At many points during the chase, it seemed like Windies would coast to a series-leveling win but the inexperience of finishing games cost them. An experienced Indian side used the inexperience in the opposition to their advantage.

India will also be pleased with Ambati Rayudu’s performance at No. 4. He followed an unbeaten 22 in Guwahati with a composed 73 in Visakhapatnam, sealing the No. 4 spot at least for the immediate future. He seems the perfect foil to Kohli in the middle overs.

Questions around the big hitters still remain though. MS Dhoni started positively but couldn’t manage more than 20. Rishabh Pant looked good for his 17. In the absence of the big hits, Kohli took the job upon himself but that might not happen all the time.

India will be pleased with posting more than 300 despite their openers not contributing much. The real challenge, though, is for them to do it without Kohli’s help. Only when they do that will they answer some crucial questions before bigger challenges.

Some questions remain in the bowling unit too. Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah are the top pacers, but the back-ups don’t seem to be doing too well. Mohammed Shami has been left out after two average outings, while Umesh Yadav hasn’t done much of note too.

For now, India’s return to the two Bs might solve the short-term issues. But they’ll still be seeking an all-round performance.


India: Virat Kohli(capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, K Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey.

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.

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