The win in Pune has been the highlight of the tour for the West Indies since they landed here last month. They’d been very competitive in the first two ODIs and pushed India too. They’d lost the opener narrowly and came back to tie the second ODI in Visakhapatnam. And with the convincing win in the third, the series was now level.
If you were a West Indian supporter though the Pune win was also an inevitable harbinger of despair. For, ironically it raised hopes of a revival after a disastrous Test series.
Not many after all expected the West Indians, who’d just about qualified for next year’s World Cup, to even come to the party in the ODIs against mighty India at home. But it’s when you start hoping with this West Indies team that they let you down the most, and how. After Pune, even the most loyal of their fans would have known, that the only way from here was down the mire.
The debacle in Mumbai three days ago was only a teaser of just how bad things would get. At least, they got the CCI organizers to switch the lights on. For, on Thursday in Thiruvananthapuram, they were blown away while the sun was still out ensuring that the day-night encounter ended with the two teams getting the night off.
Put in to bat on a slowing pitch, the visitors were bundled out for 104 in 31.5 overs before India made light work of the target and chased it down in 14.5 overs to win the series 3-1. What’s worse for the West Indians is that the tour is still not over with three T20Is still to go, with the fifth ODI itself barely having lasted more than the routine length of a contest in the shortest format.
So abysmal were they pretty much from the start of their innings once Virat Kohli asked them to bat, that it was difficult to imagine that the series was technically alive still. There was the experiment with Rovman Powell being sent to the top of the order to provide the explosive element alongside the steadying presence of Kieran Powell and Shai Hope.
But in typical Caribbean fashion, once the slide is on, things don’t go quite to plan. While the Jamaican Powell hung around, barely and struggling to cope with the swing and potency of India’s new-ball bowlers, his namesake from the island of Nevis fell in the very first over of the innings, edging an away-going delivery from Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Hope, who’d started the series so well, soon followed suit in the next over playing on to a sharp in-swinger from Jasprit Bumrah. And poor Powell was left with having to play the role he’d originally been sent to complement.
A lame effort
Walking in to bat in only the 2nd over of the innings, Marlon Samuels looked in a hurry. The veteran Jamaican has a knack of coming good in deciders. He’s the only man to have won the man-of-the-match award in a World T20 final — or any ICC event for that matter — on two occasions. And there was also the career-defining century in Vijayawada with the series tied 3-3 back in 2002. For a brief period, Samuels was in his element, driving and whipping Kumar for fours before air-lifting Khaleel Ahmed over the straight field for a trademark six. But his innings proved to be in tune with the West Indians’ performance in this series — started with a bang but finished with a squeak. He fell tamely to a length delivery from Ravindra Jadeja that stopped on him and ensured that his extended defensive prod only resulted in the ball scooping up straight into the short cover’s hands. It was the beginning of a hasty end for the visitors, though Jadeja was just getting started.
Shimron Hetmyer was his next victim as the young left-hander whose series too has fizzled out was trapped in front, playing back. It was Khaleel Ahmed though who dismissed the two batsmen keen enough to hang around in the middle, Jason Holder not surprisingly being one of them. The West Indies captain was the lone ranger in yet another collapse and it was his 25 that ensured they weren’t bowled out within three-figures as Jadeja returned to finish with 4/39.
Oshane Thomas then showed glimpses of his pace – or the fury that he can generate in his first spell anyway – and once again got rid of Shikhar Dhawan, who is now the only batsman he’s dismissed so far in international cricket by beating him with speed. He induced outside-edges from Kohli and Rohit Sharma too, but couldn’t add to his tally, as the two fast-forwarded India to victory.
It did, however, beg the question of why the West Indies didn’t persist with him after that maiden showing, but at least he got a chance to end the series on a sort of bright note, unlike his team.