The Indian team prides itself on its fielding — but the two T20Is against West Indies are matches they would like to forget — apart from one superhuman grab by Virat Kohli. Eight drops in two games and a ball going through the legs of a fielder on the 30-yard circle to the boundary — what made it worse that it was Ravindra Jadeja at fault — is a serious reality check.
The West Indians took full toll and overhauled the target of 171 at a canter, with nine balls to spare. Lendl Simmons, who Indians fans will remember as one of the architects of India’s ouster from their own party at the 2016 ICC World T20, was the glue with a 45-ball unbeaten 67 while the three left-handers around him – Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmeyer and Nicholas Pooran – were more aggressive in fashioning an eight-wicket victory. Simmons will also have happy memories of the venue for the series decider – Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
The Windies hit 12 sixes in 18.3 overs while India managed just five, which makes a huge difference in itself. The visitors six-hitting prowess is second to none, while the Indian big boys are not ones to get going from Ball One. Sunday was when Kohli, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul departed without making a big impact.
Kohli played an innings for the ages on Friday, but the skipper – the heaviest run-getter in the format now – is someway off his peak when setting the pace instead of chasing, explaining to a large extent India’s poor T20 record batting first. When Kesrick Williams got his silent retribution with the big wicket on a much better evening for him with the ball, India’s major hope for a total in the 190 territory went bust.
A little earlier, Shivam Dube got to his first 50 for India in double quick time, but he should send a thank you note to Kieron Pollard and Jason Holder. The left-hander, surprisingly sent in at No.3 ahead of the skipper, was struggling to put bat to ball effectively with 12 runs scored off his first 14 balls. The crowd was getting on his back as Dube was reduced to swinging wildly like a rusty gate. One of those swings, aimed at somewhere over midwicket, went over slip for a boundary.
Dube looked anything but a No. 3 and all he seemed to be achieving was keeping Kohli away from the crease. But the two West Indian veterans helped him out, testing the middle of the pitch at their pedestrian pace, allowing the big hitter to use his power to find the square boundaries. When they tried to bowl full on a sluggish wicket, they overcompensated into full tosses. The 10th over, bowled by Pollard, went for 26 including three sixes, injecting momentum in a somewhat subdued innings. A half-century off 27 balls was a decent effort, but if it’s not to be a one-off experiment, Dube needs to get better against spin and everything that isn’t in his arc.
However, his innings had put the team on course for a total that would have made them favourites on a sluggish pitch. Even after the skipper’s departure, the team was well placed at 144/4 with four overs to go, a run rate of nine an over. But the last 24 balls went for a mere 26 as Hayden Walsh Jr, Sheldon Cottrell and Williams conceded just a solitary boundary for the gain of three wickets. After an inauspicious start – the first over of the innings went for 12 as Cottrell couldn’t find his line and repeatedly gave leg-side wides and freebies – and Dube’s assault in the middle, the final four overs would have provided the required bounce in the Windies dressing room.
No hell-for-leather approach
The Windies chase didn’t get into fifth gear from the start. Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept a lid on proceedings in the first couple of overs. When Lewis and Simmons did miscue, in the same over from Bhuvneshwar, first Washington Sundar and then Rishabh Pant dropped the catches. Simmons’s reprieve proved the costlier one in the final analysis.
When spin was brought in, the two openers didn’t target the stands off every ball, but waited for deliveries in their arc. One of Sundar’s overs went for 15, but his return of one wicket for 26 off four overs was quite respectable as Lewis especially was kept in check till he left his crease for a big hit and was stumped. It was Hetmyer who took to Jadeja in his brief innings, using the ball coming in to him for targeting the leg-side boundary, till Kohli’s sensational grab ended his fun.
But that proved to be the last reason to celebrate for the hosts. Pooran came in and doused any hope the Indians may have had of making it a tight finish. Windies have often been described as a bunch of individuals rather than a team. If Sunday’s performance is anything to go by, the defending T20 world champions will not be ranked 10th much longer as they gear up for a title defence in 10 months’ time.