West Indies take giant strides despite trophy-less tour

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Kieron Pollard’s West Indies dug deep into their reserves to stretch India, but were unable to win both the T20I and ODI deciders. That the young West Indian hopefuls gave a good account of themselves bodes well for the side’s immediate future.

India too were encouraged by contributions from their younger players like KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur.

These in addition to the performances of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli completed what Kohli termed “one of the most successful years”. Here’s a look back at the major talking points from the tour.

Jadeja + one wristspinner > two wristspinners?

India picked both Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in their squad for the first time since the 2019 World Cup. However, they didn’t field the ‘KulCha’ combination for the want of batting depth. And so, Ravindra Jadeja got the nod ahead of Chahal in all three ODIs.

On his part, Jadeja repaid the faith with an unflappable unbeaten 31-ball 39 to help tip a tense ODI decider in India’s favour.

In all, Jadeja featured in five of the six games against West Indies, pitching in with bat, ball, and the field. Even when he wasn’t in the XI – like in the T20I decider in Mumbai – he still left his mark by plucking two catches, including that of Pollard.

West Indies provide a glimpse into their batting future

At the World Cup, West Indies went on a boundary-hitting spree. But the madness resulted in collapses leading to defeats. In India, they found two anchormen in Shai Hope and Roston Chase who lent a method to the madness. They batted around their big-hitters to take the innings deep.

Pollard even spoke about this in Visakhapatnam. “You’ve got to build a foundation first. You can’t build the top part of the house and then look to build the bottom. We’ve identified Shai [Hope] as the guy to lay the foundation for us.”

In Cuttack, West Indies bumped up Chase to No.3 to join Hope at the top, and although they both couldn’t convert starts, they set the scene for a late assault from Pollard and Nicholas Pooran.

With Shimron Hetmyer returning to form, Pooran extending his rich form, and Pollard sussing out conditions and situations smartly, West Indies’ batting is in the pink of health.

Shimron Hetmyer plays a shot during the second T20I match between India and the West Indies held at the Greenfield Stadium, Thiruvananthapuram on the 8th December 2019. (Photo by Vipin Pawar / Sportzpics for BCCI)

Should West Indies re-think their bowling combination?

Their bowling was patchy at best. Sheldon Cottrell impressed with his variations, as did Keemo Paul, but the rest of the attack didn’t quite have a Plan B, especially on flat tracks.

Jason Holder wasn’t accurate enough and on a placid Mumbai surface in the T20I decider, he conceded 54 in four overs. In hindsight, you have to wonder if West Indies may have been better off playing Paul because of his variations.

The spinners Hayden Walsh Jr. and Khary Pierre bowled some tidy spells in the shortest format, but couldn’t make much of an impact in the ODIs. Chase too proved ineffective with his offspin in the 50-over format. These are still early days yet for the CPL stars – Pierre and Walsh Jr. – but they need to do more to show they can be a wicket-taking threat in the middle overs.

India need to step up in the field

India dropped as many as 21 catches in the six games across formats. KL Rahul felt the low floodlights in Hyderabad made catching tricky, but the lapses weren’t restricted to Uppal alone. Kohli was critical of the multiple reprieves after India slid to defeat in the second T20I in Thiruvananthapuram, with Lendl Simmons, who had been dropped on 6, making a bruising match-winning unbeaten 67.

Iyer settles into the middle order

After making two fifties from No. 5 in the Caribbean, Shreyas Iyer enhanced his reputation as a middle-order bat with with back-to-back half-centuries in the ODIs. While the one in Chennai was built on a sluggish track, he hit the high notes quickly in a must-win game in Visakhapatnam. After being on a run-a-ball 20 at one point, he clobbered 33 off his next 12 balls.

“I think it [the No.4 slot] was more of an issue that it was,” Kohli told Star Sports. “If the No. 4 doesn’t get to bat consistently for you, there’s no real reason behind someone not doing well. I think Shreyas [Iyer] got an opportunity in the last four-five games, and he’s got four fifties in a row. So, he has grabbed his chances and has performed well.” (ESPNCricinfo)

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