If anyone, apart from the Windies team, needs to be embarrassed about the performances and results on this India tour, it should be the selectors and the team management. One understands that this team is not the strongest going around and several of their marquee names are unavailable for various reasons.
The selectors have limited options from which to choose from. But that can’t absolve them from some of the bizarre calls they have made, as the Windies ended the trip with a six-wicket defeat to be blanked out 3-0 in the T20I series.
Darren Bravo is not a T20 player by any description. He struggles for power and is not blessed with the inventiveness and improvisation required for the shortest format. Same is the case with Denesh Ramdin, known more for his skills behind the stumps than in front of them. He struggled to find the fence and also to rotate strike at a crucial juncture in their innings, after the visitors won the toss and elected to bat at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
The Windies selectors, in their infinite wisdom, did not include them in the format they are most suited for – Tests. Bravo has eight hundreds in 49 Tests, with a best of 218 before a tiff with selectors meant he hasn’t played one in two years.
Ramdin has four Test tons with a best of 166. He hasn’t put on the Test whites in almost three years now. Both of them could have been useful in the Test series, where a largely inexperienced line-up often failed to provide resistance.
The error of the selectors was compounded by the team management, who sent them at Nos 3 and 4. The two pulled the run rate down, after Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer had added 51 in the Poweplay after a slow start. Bravo and Ramdin added 32 in 23 balls, chewing up valuable deliveries while the heavy artillery – in the form of Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard and Carlos Brathwaite – remained in the dugout. Ramdin was dismissed for a run-a-ball 15 while Bravo managed a 37-ball 43, despite staying till the end.
The folly became apparent when 23-year-old Pooran came out with just over seven overs left and gave the Windies innings the impetus that it desperately needed. His 53 off 25 balls, laced with four fours and as many sixes, displayed both the uncanny power in his frame as well as his cheekiness, best displayed by a switch hit off leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal that soared over the fence. The Windies ended up with 181/3 with Pollard and Brathwaite not even getting a hit.
The score seemed competitive for a significant portion of the Indian chase and the hosts only overhauled the total off the final ball of the match, courtesy a fumble. But once Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant got into their stride, the result seemed a foregone conclusion.
Southpaws to the fore
With Virat Kohli sitting out the T20 series, the major onus of scoring has fallen on Rohit Sharma, and so when he departs early there is a feeling of the cat being thrown among the pigeons. It was a chance for KL Rahul to get a few morale-boosting runs before the tour to Australia, but the Karnataka batsman too flattered to deceive.
Speedster Oshane Thomas had had Dhawan’s number on this tour, breaching the left-hander’s defences three times. But the Delhi batsman was determined to settle scores at Chepauk. His 92 off 62 balls, with 10 fours and two sixes, was his first fifty in quite a while.
When he was joined by fellow Delhiite Rishabh Pant (58 off 38 balls, five fours and three sixes), Brathwaite would have harboured realistic hopes of ending their tour on a high. The asking rate was well above nine runs an over and the next few overs managed to push it higher. The target was 106 runs away after 10 overs.
Pant has an ungainly technique when he goes for the big hit. He is seldom balanced and his feet often give way, though that doesn’t often stop the ball from clearing the ropes, sometimes with only one hand. He sent Thomas over the square-leg fence in the 11th over, falling over in the process and then, benefitting from the bowler over-stepping, deposited the free hit over deep midwicket.
Overs 11-18 brought 98 runs with the two left-handers doing as they pleased, as what looked like a stiff chase at one stage, became a canter. While Pant was all power, Dhawan found the gaps with uncanny precision.
With seven to get from 11 balls, Pant became too cheeky for his own good and saw his furniture disturbed. Manish Pandey struggled to rotate strike and the requirement was five off the last over, bowled by left-arm spinner Fabian Allen. It all seemed settled with the scores level with three balls to go, but Dhawan holed out at long-on off the penultimate delivery.
Pandey hit the ball back to the bowler, but Allen couldn’t collect it at one go, allowing the batsmen to complete the winning run. Brathwaite and his men slumped to the ground, in recognition of what could have been. But it was only apt that the final blow to the Windies cause was a self-inflicted one.
In the end, Rohit Sharma could have a little laugh about the mess at the death. “I’ve been part of games like these with Mumbai Indians. Great effort to cross the finish line. We spoke at the start of this game that we wanted to be ruthless. There were chances of us being complacent and turing up at the ground,” he said.