The series was touted as India’s response to their shock defeat against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final after a slightly different team flew to West Indies. At first look, handing some of the fringe players with crucial game time was the objective of the limited-overs series. While West Indies were tepid in all three games, India still had to get the job done.
Virat Kohli and Co looked wasteful in the first match, steadily kicked into gear in the second, and were clinical in the dead rubber.
As was the case two years ago on the West Indian shores – once again, straight after a loss, this time in the Champions Trophy final – there are options that opened up for the team management to play with. It was in 2017 that India formed the wrist-spin axis of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who had major roles to play in their side’s wins up until the World Cup. In a strange turn of events, they didn’t feature in the T20Is here.
While Hardik Pandya was away, brother Krunal made another strong case for being more than just a Twenty20 International specialist. He finished with a player of the series performance to boot.
Rishabh Pant’s flourish in the final game would have also given them plenty of reasons to smile. Navdeep Saini and Deepak Chahar holding their own, even more so.
India’s road to the World T20 next year got the right kind impetus it needed but there is work to do. One never knows the damage that a more motivated and in-form opponent could have inflicted.
Here are some of the talking points from the three-match series:
Pant delivers, finally
Some of the talk surrounding India’s No 4 slot can, for the time being, be put to rest. Pant was his free-flowing self but his smart approach stood out in the final game. The pressure was on him after twin failures. Importantly, the approach and manner of dismissals were poor. The southpaw needed a good knock under his belt.
The only risky shot that he played early on was a cut over point. Here, he went much wider of third man and was a little more sure-footed with his shot selection. With Kohli at the other end, Pant gradually grew in confidence. His strong bottom-hand play came to the fore and was well complimented with shots from the V. The highlight of his entertaining half-century was easily the flick that went over the ropes off Oshane Thomas.
Even more encouraging for India was that Pant showed a mature head on his shoulders after Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul threw away their wickets.
The Pandey-Iyer conundrum
Manish Pandey ought to have done better in the Florida games. Unfortunately, he only managed to get scores of 19 and 6 after receiving another call-up. The 29-year-old came into the series on the back of good domestic form but couldn’t make an impact. In the third T20I, he came in when India almost had the game in the bag.
Meanwhile, Shreyas Iyer continued to warm the bench. While it would have been harsh on Pandey had he made way for the Mumbai batsman, Iyer deserves an audition. With Pant slowly cementing his place in the limited-overs setup, it is anybody’s guess if Iyer gets a nod in the ODIs.
With Kedar Jadhav also returning in the 50-over games, Pandey and Iyer have another name vying for a place. Ravindra Jadeja is also an option. Iyer’s frustrating wait continues but it’s about time Pandey justifies why the management rates him so highly.
Gains for Saini and Chahar
Saini’s international career got the start he was looking for and will come as a big surprise if he doesn’t play in the 1st ODI. But the show-stealer in the final T20I was Deepak Chahar with his ability to move the ball both ways. The medium-pacer, who has been a revelation for Indian Premier League giants Chennai Super Kings, was a menace in the powerplay.
Chahar troubled right handers with the delivery going away but it was the three West Indian left-handers at the top of the order who were bamboozled. Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer were out leg-before trying to plant their front foot forward early and were beaten by the late movement. A tinge of dampness on the wicket also worked to Chahar’s advantage during the powerplay. He finished with stunning figures of 3-1-4-3.
Rohit Sharma being rested for the game gave KL Rahul the chance to stamp his authority at the top of the order. Despite playing a couple of stylish shots, Rahul’s adventure got the better of him and was out stumped. Dhawan, so good against the white-ball, strangely managed to find the short third-man fielder.
While it looked like Dhawan and Sharma were back to run-scoring ways in the previous match, an opportunity was missed in Guyana. There was little pressure on Rahul; India were chasing a modest but tricky 147. This was a chance for the 27-year-old to cause more selection headaches in a format that he has excelled. Like Pandey, Iyer and Jadhav, Rahul will also have to put his hat in the ring for spots in the middle order in the ODIs. He, however, has an slender advantage on the back of good displays in the UK.