A clinical India outclassed West Indies by a whopping 200 runs in the third ODI to win the series 2-1 but the lingering questions on the team combination ahead of the World Cup remained in the horizon despite four half-centuries and a top notch bowling effort on Tuesday. Skipper Rohit Sharma and senior pro Virat Kohli once again opted out to give World Cup hopefuls a fair go but the dominant result isn’t a good enough indication that all boxes have been ticked as the team looks far from settled.
Shubman Gill, who has had a quiet Caribbean sojourn so far, finally found some rhythm with 85 off 92 balls and his opening stand of 143 with an in-form Ishan Kishan (77 off 64 balls) set the platform for a commanding score of 351 for 5 after being put into bat.
Sanju Samson (51 off 41 balls) made a compelling case to be picked as a reserve middle-order batter while skipper Hardik Pandya’s (52-ball-70 not out) five sixes and four boundaries added the finishing flourish on a good batting strip.
The chase was always out of question and Mukesh Kumar’s (3/30 in 7 overs) three-wicket burst with some quality seam bowling in the first Powerplay dashed West Indies’ hopes as they were shot out for 151 in only 35.3 overs.
Gudakesh Motie (39 not out) and Alzarri Joseph (26) delayed the inevitable with a 55-run stand for the ninth wicket.
Shardul Thakur (4/37 in 6.3 overs), Jaydev Unadkat (1/16 in 5 overs) and Kuldeep Yadav (2/25 in 8 overs) were also among the wickets as the series decider turned out to be a lopsided contest.
But there would be questions that will beg answers ahead of the upcoming Asia Cup and subsequent World Cup at home.
For Kishan, the performance in this series will keep him in good stead ahead of Asia Cup but the bigger question remains about his batting position in case KL Rahul isn’t fit for the tourney.
The chances of Rohit Sharma sacrificing his place at the top of the order to accommodate Kishan are slim.
And then if Kishan is asked to bat in the middle-order — No 4 or 5, would it be fair to ask him to perform at that slot straightaway? Samson, one of the contenders for the No. 4 slot in case Shreyas Iyer doesn’t get fit in time for the World Cup, gave a good glimpse of his talent and enthralled his millions of followers on social media.
His innings had four lusty sixes — three off leg-spinner Yannic Cariah, where he got his front-foot out of the way to hit some glorious inside-out shots.
But just as it has been Samson’s bane, he failed to convert his fourth half-century into a big one despite a whole lot of time at his disposal.
Suryakumar Yadav (35) did hit his customary pick-up shot — a six behind square with little width to manoeuvre and also a slashed six off Jayden Seals but once again wasted a golden opportunity to make a mark.
Hardik announced his arrival with a picturesque off-drive and a straight six off Cariah was equally eye-pleasing. Hardik and Suryakumar added 65 runs in 8.1 overs for the fifth wicket but the latter will only have himself to blame or not making most of the opportunities.
Not scoring a fifty against this West Indies attack can surely come back to hunt him in case both Rahul and Shreyas Iyer get fit.
Similarly in bowling department, not picking Yuzvendra Chahal for a single game was slightly baffling as now only nine matches (if they play Asia Cup final) are left before World Cup starts.
With Ravindra Jadeja picking himself as the first spinner, there is no way that Axar Patel can make it to the playing XI.
Similarly, Mukesh Kumar despite his performances at best could be in list of five stand-bys if Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur are picked in the squad of 15.
The fifth seamer has to be a left-armer with variation and Jaydev Unadkat, despite his serious limitations, is likely to be persisted with till the end of World Cup.