Equipped with a top-order that is riding an unprecedented run of rich form, India are favoured to extend their dominance while West Indies face daunting odds to draw parity, in the second One-day International in Vishakapatnam Wednesday.
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.
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 and it must be weighing at the back of Kohli’s mind. As it was, the first ODI did not tell the Indian management anything that they didn’t already know.
While a tight contest might not be forthcoming, the possibility of a jaw-dropping ODI record being broken has added to the excitement of the port city’s frenzied fans. If captain Virat Kohli adds another 81 runs to his tally, he will become the fastest man to 10,000 runs in this format, surpassing Sachin Tendulkar.
Tendulkar took 259 innings to get there and Kohli has so far batted 204 times. The record is a mere formality, but in the form he is in — 889 runs in 10 ODIs in 2018 — it would be no surprise if he gets to the landmark on Wednesday. Kohli has 54 more innings to score 81 runs — a sign of how dominant he has been in this format.
Notwithstanding the Indian bowlers’ profligate display, albeit on a belter of a pitch in Guwahati, the home team made easy work of what looked like a fighting 323-run target, 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.
Bowling under the scanner
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 face a Catch-22 with their batting lineup as the middle order is unlikely to get enough opportunities to test their mettle against this West Indies attack, what with the home team’s top three batsmen in the mood to plunder runs.
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’s bowling has lacked penetration in the subsequent matches — offering reminder as to why he was sidelined in the first place. He leaked runs in the first game of the ongoing series, albeit getting a couple of wickets, and 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. Fresh from a 10-wicket outing in the second Test, Umesh Yadav could not replicate his red ball form, showing a familiar tendency to err on his line. 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.
Khaleel Ahmed, perhaps the most steady of the three pacers on show in Guwahati, has the captain’s backing for the variety he provides and it would be harsh if he is made to sit out after just one game.
If the auditions are underway for filling up the remaining spots in the squad for the World Cup, the bowling attack (barring Yuzvendra Chahal) would do well to pull their socks up.
India could still ring in a change or two, though. Kuldeep Yadav, who was not played in the opening game and which had a bearing on the middle overs, could replace one of the pacers.
Positives for Windies
Hetmyer’s knock was one of the few positives for the Windies, 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 fell for a duck in his 200th ODI appearance. He would look to make up for his failure. Pace spearhead Kemar Roach was back in Guwahati 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.
Youngster Oshane Thomas impressed in his first spell on his debut but his pace fell off drastically in his subsequent overs but if him and Roach can provide the early breakthroughs, the Windies can just dream of an unlikely win.
And for India, that might not be the worst possibilities either, if the middle order gets a good work-out.
India’s 12-man squad: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Khaleel Ahmed.
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.