VISAKHAPATNAM: It’s been over 15 years since India last lost two consecutive bilateral ODI series at home. They have also never lost five straight ODIs in India. But both those things may happen if they lose to West Indies in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday – they lost the last three matches to concede the series against Australia 3-2 in March.
Although Rohit Sharma has been off-colour so far against West Indies, the rest of the Indian batting contingent has displayed enough composure and grit for the spotlight to move away from the star opening batsman. KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Shivam Dube have all shown across the white-ball series that they could be relied on to take responsibility, but the same cannot be same about the team’s bowling. Virat Kohli’s template as captain has been to strangle teams in the middle overs after the new-ball bowlers do their job in their first spells, but with Jasprit Bumrah missing, the early wickets have been more difficult to come by.
It was on display in the first ODI, when the set West Indies batsmen played out the spin threat of Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja with ease, despite plenty of turn on offer in Chennai. It forced Kohli to bowl out Deepak Chahar and Mohammed Shami before the slog overs, leaving young Dube with the task of bowling at the death. It was similar for India during the loss to Australia, where Vijay Shankar was often the go-to bowler at the back end.
The only difference between India and the visitors in Chennai was the number of options each captain had, and West Indies’ seven-bowler plan helped Kieron Pollard use conditions to his advantage.
In the preceding T20I series, West Indies had gone into the second game with a 1-0 lead, like now, in the ODIs. While they walk into the second game here with confidence, they need to make sure they don’t let the opposition batsmen settle in.