Bridgetown: Skipper Rohit Sharma and senior pro Virat Kohli, who have 76 international hundreds between them, decided to give game time to middle-order batters as India beat West Indies by five wickets in the opening ODI, riding on exploits from spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
After Jadeja (3/37 in 6 overs) and Kuldeep (4/6 in 4 overs) set it up beautifully, shooting out the Windies for 114 in 23 overs, Ishan Kishan helped himself to a half-century (52 off 46 balls) in India’s successful chase in just 22.5 overs.
With 12 ODI matches in hand to find the perfect combination and some pieces of the puzzle still to be fixed before the World Cup, Rahul Dravid and Rohit’s decision to give game time to middle-order batters was a welcome move.
While it didn’t exactly go as per plan for Suryakumar Yadav (19), who played a non-existent sweep shot, and Hardik Pandya (5), freakishly run-out at the non-striker’s end, Kishan did his cause no harm with his fourth half-century.
The chase was never a problem but the wicket did offer a lot of turn apart from bounce which made life difficult for batters from both sides. Left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie (2/26 in 6.5 overs) did ask a few probing questions but the total didn’t allow him to challenge the Indians more.
For India, skipper Rohit came in as late as No. 7 and Kohli didn’t even come out to bat.
The idea was simple. Neither Rohit nor Kohli would gain anything by getting another half-century against a team like West Indies but giving a chance to check Kishan as the third/reserve opener or Suryakumar as one of the middle-order options, provided Shreyas Iyer fails to recover in time, would give them requisite confidence.
With chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar also present, these were some well thought-out moves as often the Indian top three have stacked runs. Also, when batting collapse happened in a knock-out game of a big tourney, the middle-order, with lack of game time, have struggled badly.
In the end, Jadeja (16 not out) also got 20-odd balls to bat and Rohit hit the winning runs.
The ability to experiment with batting line-up was laudable but one would expect that Rohit and Kohli will bat in their usual positions if India opt to make or is forced to make first use of the track in the next game.
This series will be used for experiments and rightly so.
After putting West Indies to bat, Jadeja tightened the noose and Kuldeep went for the final kill in just 23 overs of bowling.
Hardik Pandya (1/17 in 3 overs), starting with the new ball alongside debutant Mukesh Kumar (1/22 in 5 overs), set the tone with a tight first spell before Jadeja and Kuldeep finished the innings in a jiffy.
Skipper Shai Hope’s 43 was the top score for the hosts as only two other batters were able to cross the double digit mark.
Once Jadeja (6-0-37-3) and Kuldeep (3-2-6-4) operated in tandem, the West Indies team didn’t have the quality to survive on a track that had extra bounce to trouble the batters.
Kyle Mayers wanted to free himself and only managed a slog that went to skipper Rohit Sharma at mid-on while Jadeja timed his jump to perfection at point to latch on to an Alick Athanaze (22 off 18 balls) slash after a brief but adventurous stay at the crease.
Shardul Thakur (1/14 in 3 overs) then bowled a perfect in-cutter to clan up Brandon King (17) as the gulf in standard was pretty evident, and why West Indies failed to qualify for the upcoming World Cup was as clear as daylight.
With the pitch offering a bit of pace, both Jadeja and Kuldeep were able to hurry the batters as Shimron Hetmyer’s (11 off 19 balls) struggles were apparent while trying an ugly lap-scoop off Jadeja.
In case of another T20 star Rovman Powell, he couldn’t gauge the turn that Jadeja got off the surface while Kuldeep forced West Indies skipper to try an uncharacteristic reverse sweep and embarrassingly get yorked in the process.
Kuldeep’s googlies (one that turns away from right handers) was unplayable for most of the Caribbean batters.
Most of the bowling changes made by Rohit worked wonderfully well.