Indian team management’s decision to rest skipper Rohit Sharma and premier batter Virat Kohli badly backfired as none of the World Cup hopefuls could cope with the pace, bounce and turn against the West Indies, managing a dismal 180 in 40.5 overs in the rain-hit second ODI on Saturday. Losing five wickets for 23 runs in just 7.2 overs after an opening stand of 90 between Ishan Kishan (55 off 55 balls) and Shubman Gill (34 off 49 balls) became India’s undoing after the West Indies skipper Shai Hope opted to bowl.
The loss of momentum hurt India dearly but more than that, the rationale behind Rohit and Kohli’s forced break with only 10 months left before the big event, didn’t make much sense. Not to forget that the failures left more questions than answers.
There were two rain-delays but West Indies bowlers never let their intensity drop in an impressive display.
While Kishan, who will not open during World Cup, consolidated his case for selection as second wicket-keeper (provided KL Rahul gets fit for World Cup) with a second successive half-century, the same couldn’t be said about Sanju Samson (9 off 19 balls) and Axar Patel (1 off 8 balls).
Promoted as Nos 3 and 4 to keep the left-right combination going, both players struggled not only against short-ball tactic employed by Jayden Seales (1/28 in 6 overs), Alzarri Joseph (2/35 from 7 overs) and Romario Shepherd (3/37 in 8 overs) but also the grip, turn and bounce that spinners Gudakesh Motie (3/36 in 9.3 overs) and Yannic Cariah (1/25 in 5 overs) generated.
Samson, who has a good chance of missing out on the final 15 berth, never looked in sync, having last played a competitive match on May 19 in the IPL.
He has never read leg-spinners well in his career (case in point Wanindu Hasaranga in Sri Lanka in 2021) and never looked comfortable against Cariah’s leg-breaks. When he got out, it was a leg-break and extra bounce and Samson couldn’t remove his bat from the line of the ball.
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However playing him at No. 3 where he won’t get a chance in World Cup didn’t do his cause any good. Rather checking him at No. 4 where he could replace Iyer or No. 5 as a keeper-batter in case Rahul doesn’t make it in the end would have been a better move.
Just like the first game, the Kensington Oval pitch had a lot of spice and West Indies bowlers were steady save a brief period when Kishan and Gill did score runs at a brisk pace.
Kishan gave Motie the charge and got a six while Gill’s on-drive was a treat for the eyes even though he never looked completely in rhythm.
Once Motie gave the ball more air, a desperate Gill tried to loft him but was holed at long-off boundary.
Kishan, who had by then completed his 50 tried to square cut Shepherd when the ball bounced a tad more and the width wasn’t big enough but Alick Athanaze took a fine diving catch at point.
Skipper on the day Hardik Pandya (7 off 14 balls) was peppered with short balls and finally his patience gave off as he tried to pull Seals and Brandon King had an easy catch at mid-wicket. Seals and Joseph had pried on the stand-in skipper’s patience for a fair duration.
Axar Patel (1), who is now more of a batter in white ball cricket than a bowler, was sent in at No. 4, a slot which India haven’t yet got a hang since they are waiting for Shreyas Iyer to get fit. He got an unplayable one from Shepherd and it brushed his gloves before landing safely into Shai Hope’s gloves.
As far as Suryakumar Yadav (24 of 25 balls) is concerned, his die-hard fans will tear their hair in frustration after three boundaries, including a crunchy pull-shot, raised hopes of a revival.
The dismissal was a meek one when Motie bowled one wide off off-stump and it had turn and bounce enticing him to play the cut which landed into the fielder’s hands at backward point. With Surya’s departure, India’s hopes of crossing 200 evaporated.
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