It’s funny how things work in cricket sometimes. Kedar Jadhav, on Thursday, after making a comeback from his Asia Cup injury at the Deodhar Trophy, created a stir when he revealed his surprise at not being selected for the third, fourth and fifth ODIs against West Indies. The chief selector shot back saying he has a history of fitness issues. But a day later, on the night before the third ODI in Pune, he was drafted into the squad for the last two matches, his tryst with fitness not a concern anymore seemingly. And later on Saturday night, his name found a mention in Virat Kohli’s post-match conference, as one of the solutions to restore balance to the Indian side.

Talk about a whirlwind three days and a case of absence making the heart grow fonder.

With predictions of a walk-in-the-park series for India already thrown out of the window, Kohli’s team finds itself in a must-win situation at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai. Credit must be given to the West Indies, who have moved on from a dismal Test series and given the formidable hosts a run for their money in the one-day format.

And with the series on the line, India look to find the ‘perfect’ balance in their playing eleven when they take on a resurgent Windies side on Monday.

The encounter also marks the return of international cricket to the Brabourne stadium, which last hosted a Test in 2009 and an ODI back in 2006. The last international match at the venue was a Test match between India and Sri Lanka back in 2009 when India sealed their ascent to the top of Test rankings for the first time since its inception with Virender Sehwag in supreme form.

While action returns to a forgotten venue steeped in history with drama surrounding the decision, there has been enough intrigue created on the field as well after the first three matches.

Expect multiple changes from India

Going with five specialist bowlers in Pune on Saturday did not work for India. Bhuvneshwar Kumar might be an useful all-rounder but he is no number seven.

As Kohli pointed out after the 43-run loss in the third ODI, the return of Jadhav from injury will give the team a much needed depth in both batting and bowling department.

“You will always drift to one side when you don’t have the balance. We have to think about the perfect balance we need,” said the skipper after the defeat.

An unstable middle-order and lack of runs from MS Dhoni’s bat are familar issues facing India, not just for Monday’s fixture but also in the long run with 15 games remaining before the World Cup in England next year.

Having lost his place in the T20 team, Dhoni is in desperate need of runs in the limited opportunities that are left ahead of the 50-over showpiece event. And, according to reports, the former captain has been slugging it out in the nets ahead of this game.

Ambati Rayudu (22) did get a start in Pune but if the right-hander wants to hold on to the number four spot, he will have to keep scoring consistently.

Rishabh Pant, who batted at five ahead of Dhoni in the previous game, has been his usual aggressive self but a significant score in his debut ODI series is still awaited.

Amid all the uncertainty, Jadhav’s return in the middle-order is more than welcome. His fitness has been a concern in the recent past but he looked good in his first competitive game, played during the Deodhar Trophy, after recovering from a hamstring injury. Besides his powerful hitting, his off-spin could also come handy.

But it’s not straight-forward to bring Jadhav into the XI. He cannot be India’s fifth bowler under any circumstances, so he won’t be just replacing a bowler in the XI. The more likely scenario is Jadhav taking Khaleel Ahmed’s place (or Bumrah’s, if he has fitness concerns) while Ravindra Jadeja replaces a batsman, likely Pant.

Dependency on top-order

Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, who have had twin failures, are due for a big partnership.

The biggest positive for the hosts has been the form of skipper Kohli, who struck his third hundred in a row during the third ODI, becoming the first Indian to do so.

While most will back Kohli to get another big score at the CCI, the skipper would be expecting a much improved performance from his team. The middle order has averaged just around 26 at a strike rate of 76 in ODIs in 2018, contributing just two half centuries in the process. Those are, by any standards, terrible numbers.

On the bowling front, Bumrah made a stunning comeback, clinching four wickets on Saturday night. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, however, conceded runs in the death overs but trust him to bounce back.

The role of both the spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – will be crucial in restricting the opposition batsmen.

For the West Indies, their biggest asset has been wicket-keeper Shai Hope, who has played two key innings, a 123 in Visakhapatnam followed by a crucial 95 in Pune.

He would be hoping for another big knock tomorrow and so will Shimron Hetmyer, who failed to convert his start in the third game.

The 21-year-old southpaw, who had scores of 106 and 94 before the Pune game, would be the one watch out for again.

Apart from these two star players, Windies would be hoping that the likes of Kieron Powell, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Rovman Powell fire in the crucial contest.

The experienced Marlon Samuels shone with the ball last night with three wickets but his bat has not done the talking so far. Skipper Jason Holder would also be itching to make a match-winning contribution, while he impressed with two crucial blows in Pune.

The bowlers would have taken confidence from bundling out India in Pune. Pacer Obed McCoy and off-spinner Ashley Nurse will be high on confidence as the West Indies aim to take the series lead.

For India, it will be (once again) a chance to iron out some very obvious flaws.


India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav.

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.

Match starts 1330 IST.

(With PTI inputs)