After commanding victories in the three One-Day Internationals, India will look to seal the T20I series as well when they face West Indies in the second T20I at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Friday.
After being beaten 0-3 in the ODI leg in Ahmedabad, the Kieron Pollard-led team was expected to bounce back in the T20 series but they lost the opener by six wickets.
Another win and it will be a third successive series victory for Rohit Sharma after being appointed India’s full-time captain in white-ball cricket.
The only real concern for India has been Virat Kohli’s form and he would definitely want a bigger knock than the scores of 8, 18, 0, and 17 so far in the assignment.
Rohit is confident that he would come good and has asked both critics and media to spare him the constant scrutiny.
On his part, Rohit knows the importance of going hard in the powerplay, something that was in full display in his 19-ball 40 when he took Odean Smith to the cleaners in an over that conceded 22 runs.
With Ishan Kishan struggling to get going at the other end, Rohit made the bulk of the 58 runs that India scored in the powerplay, something that meant they never fell behind the 158-run chase despite losing three quick wickets in the middle.
After Rohit got out in the eighth over, Kohli had a good opportunity to return among runs and seal the chase. But that was not the case even though Kohli looked fluent in his short stay of 13-ball 17.
As for Ishan, the most expensive (Rs 15.25 crore) buy in the IPL 2022 auction, he was not able to score freely and failed to rotate strike when Rohit looked in sublime touch.
But thanks to Rohit’s innings at the top, things did not go much out of India’s reach as Suryakumar Yadav and Venkatesh Iyer applied themselves nicely to seal the chase.
With India opting for a six-bowler combination featuring medium pace bowling all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, in-form batter Shreyas Iyer had to sit out of the opening game.
“We were very clear with Shreyas, we told him the team wants that option (of an all-rounder) going into the World Cup. We need that option in the middle, someone who can bowl,” Rohit said after the match.
“A lot of things go into deciding the playing XI, the opposition, the conditions, the dimensions of the ground. Yes, sometimes it can be tough for the guys missing out but we are making sure we are giving out a very clear message. Unfortunately, we want to put the team first.”
India will also be fretting over injury to pacer Deepak Chahar who sustained a blow to his right hand while fielding and could not complete his quota.
Looking for their first win of the tour, it would be a make or break match for the Windies.
They would look forward to the return of their pace bowling all-rounder Jason Holder who had to sit out of the first T20I following an injury in the nets one day prior to the match.
“He was hit on his chest during training and was not ready for the first game and was out as a precautionary measure. We are hoping he will be back for the next game,” said a team official.
For them, the lone bright spot on Wednesday was their vice captain Nicholas Pooran’s return to form with the bat.
Fresh from his Rs 10.75 crore deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad, the left-handed wicketkeeper batter revived the Windies innings with a 38-ball fifty, that came after opener Kyle Mayers failed to convert his start.
Pooran and a fit-again skipper Kieron Pollard stepped up the accelerator in the last five overs scoring 61 runs to lift their total to 157/7.
But in the end it proved to be 15-20 runs less, bringing the focus back on their middle over struggles where debutant Indian leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi made it difficult for the visitors.
With Holder back and Pooran and Pollard beginning to look at their ominous best, the West Indies would fancy their chances to keep the series alive.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Surya Kumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Bishnoi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Deepak Hooda, Kuldeep Yadav, Harpreet Brar.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Brandon King, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Kyle Mayers, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Inputs from PTI