It has been a mismatch of gigantic proportions so far and it looks highly unlikely that West Indies would have much of a chance against the well-oiled machine that India seem to be at home.
If captain Virat Kohli adds another 81 runs to his awe-inspiring tally, he will become the fastest man to 10,000 runs in this format, surpassing the iconic Sachin Tendulkar. The possibility of this record being broken has added to the excitement of the port city’s frenzied fans. Tendulkar took 259 innings to get there and Kohli has so far batted 204 times.
Notwithstanding the Indian bowlers’ profligate display, albeit on a belter, the home team made easy work of what looked like a stiff 323-run target in the series opener, taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match rubber. In Guwahati, India unleashed their batting might as Kohli and opener Rohit Sharma, arguably the two best batsmen in the 50-over game at the moment, smashed big hundreds in quick time. Finishing the game with eight overs to spare was a statement of sorts, and another blow to the West Indies’ morale.
However, despite the convincing margin of victory, India will be better off with a bit of frugality from their bowlers at the Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACAVDCA Cricket Stadium.
Besides, India are unlikely to get enough opportunities to test their middle-order against this West Indies attack, what with the home team’s top three batsmen in the mood to plunder runs. But the lack of enough game-time for their middle-order may not hold India in good stead in the run-up to the World Cup.
As far as the upcoming match is concerned, Kohli knows his team is thin in the bowling department, and West Indies made full use of the weakness, though the visiting team’s attack too, was taken to the task under lights. In the absence of ‘death overs specialist’ Jasprit Bumrah and the reliable Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the Indian seamers were not up to the mark at the Barsapara Stadium. Also, Ravindra Jadeja did not look threatening in the middle overs and this allowed West Indies batsmen to keep going for their strokes.
After making a fine comeback in ODIs against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup, Jadeja has not been able to be as penetrative in the remaining matches. He leaked runs in the first game of the ongoing series, but considering his all-round abilities, he is expected to get a longer run.
Mohammad Shami was wayward and was taken for plenty of runs — 81 to be precise — in his quota of 10 overs. Given the lack of options at his disposal at the moment though, Kohli could continue with the seamer. Fresh from a 10-wicket outing in the second Test, Umesh Yadav could not replicate his red ball form, conceding too many runs.
More than his bowling figures, what was disturbing was the fact that the speedster lacked direction, something that has troubled him in the past as well. With less than a year left for the World Cup and the team management eager to form a pool of fast bowlers for the showpiece in England, Umesh is also likely to get an extended run.
India could still ring in a change or two, though. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who was not played in the opening game and which had a bearing on the middle overs, is likely to replace Khaleel Ahmed, who looked out of sorts against the marauding Shimron Hetmyer, who struck a blazing 78-ball 106. Hetmyer’s knock was one of the few positives for the beleaguered visitors, apart from the brisk start provided by Kieran Powell. While the two showed up, West Indies would hope others too, would make substantial contributions in the remainder of the series.
The seasoned Marlon Samuels is part of the squad but he perished quickly in the first match. He would look to make up for his failure, just like India’s Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan was in prolific form in India’s triumphant Asia Cup campaign and he is expected to fire anytime soon. The last time he batted here, against Sri Lanka in December 2017, Dhawan compiled a match-winning century.
Rishabh Pant, who has already made his presence felt in his brief international career, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, only add to the West Indians’ worry.
For West Indies, pace spearhead Kemar Roach is back after missing the Test series due to bereavement in the family, but he could not inspire the team first up. Roach will get another opportunity on Wednesday, and so will the likes of Devendra Bishoo, and skipper Jason Holder himself.
Teams (from): India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul
West Indies: Jason Holder (Captain), Fabian Allen, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Oshane Thomas. Match starts at 13.30 IST.