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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

India face series-deciding challenge in battle of equals against West Indies

After enduring a crushing eight-wicket defeat in the second T20I, the Virat Kohli-led Indian unit will seek to bounce back and win the series on Wednesday in Mumbai.

By: Sports Desk | Updated: December 11, 2019 3:30:25 pm
The three-match contest is now evenly balanced at 1-1 and the final clash on Wednesday promises to be an enthralling series-finale. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

After enduring a crushing eight-wicket defeat in the second T20I, the Virat Kohli-led Indian unit will look to bounce back against West Indies in the series-decider, which will be played Wednesday at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. After winning the first T20I, with skipper Kohli leading from the front, West Indies turned on the style and overpowered the home team in every department of the game.

For the hosts, there will be players whose performance will be closely watched, from under-fire wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant to young off-spinner Washington Sundar. Pant has been under pressure since Dhoni’s exit from the national side post the World Cup, and things won’t get any easier for teh 22-year-old wicketkeeper.

After chipping in with an 18-run cameo in the first encounter, Pant managed to score 33 runs in the second game, though they came slower. Given the pressure, it won’t be easy for him to regain the early form that made him seem like Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s heir apparent. Coming in at No.4, Pant has now scored of 33 not out, 18, 6, 27, 19, 4 in the last seven T20s that he has featured in. His last T20 fifty came against West Indies in August. With the likes of Sanju Samson waiting in the wings, Pant will have to come good sooner than later.

Another young gun who has failed to impress is Sundar. The off-spinner has only bagged three wickets in the last five T20s that he has played (two against West Indies and three against Bangladesh) while giving away a whopping 144 runs in the 23 overs he has bowled. His fielding is another area of concern after the 20-year-old dropped a sitter in the second T20I by Lendl Simmons, who went on to score 67.

Kuldeep Yadav could replace the youngster in the final encounter of the series. The chinaman last played a T20I against New Zealand in Hamilton back in February.

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India’s batting isn’t a concern presently. Opener Rohit Sharma – who has had a forgettable series so far – will be raring to go before his home crowd. KL Rahul and skipper Kohli are also among the runs. Shivam Dube, who slammed his maiden T20 fifty, showed he can hit towering sixes and will also want to perform before his home crowd, just like Shreyas Iyer.

However, the bowling department is a matter of concern. Deepak Chahar leaked 91 runs in the first two matches. The right-arm medium pacer had a memorable series against Bangladesh, but hasn’t had the same success in this series. With Mohammed Shami waiting, Chahar will have to step up.

West Indies will fancy their chances of clinching the series after the terrific comeback. Their top-order batsmen, particularly Simmons, are in splendid form. Also, the likes of Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetymar are among the runs and they will look to continue the form.

Add to that the firepower of Brandon King, Jason Holder, and skipper Kieron Pollard, and the West Indies can be unbeatable on their day.

But the test will be for pacers Sheldon Cottrell and Kesrick Williams, leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr, and Holder, who will have to bowl in the right areas to stem the flow of runs like the did in the second T20I.


India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Sanju Samson.

West Indies: Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Brandon King, Denesh Ramdin, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Sherfane Rutherford, Shimron Hetmyer, Khary Pierre, Lendl Simmons, Jason Holder, Hayden Walsh Jr, Keemo Paul, Kesrick Williams, Nicholas Pooran.

The match starts at 7 pm IST.

(with PTI inputs)

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