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Thursday, May 19, 2022

India vs West Indies T20I series: WI flattened by bench press

India showcase strength in depth to register another 3-0 sweep against hapless tourists

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata |
Updated: February 21, 2022 9:28:03 am
Kolkata: Indian players pose with the trophy after winning the 3rd and final T20 cricket match of the series against West Indies, at Eden Garden in Kolkata (Source: PTI)

Yet again, the penultimate over of the game proved to be the clincher for India, like the second T20I. The West Indies kept losing wickets right from the start but didn’t ditch their merry hitting. After 18 overs, they were 154/7, chasing 185 for victory.

Romario Shepherd was keeping the tourists in the game, even after Nicholas Pooran got out for a 47-ball 61. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was sitting out this game as India rotated their pacers and Harshal Patel bowled the 19th over. The first four balls accounted for four runs, including a couple of leg-byes. Then, the medium pacer dismissed Shepherd, deceiving the batsman with change of pace and Rohit Sharma taking a superb diving catch at extra cover. India’s catching in the third T20I was brilliant, two dropped chances notwithstanding. Patel’s bowling effort was excellent. Just eight runs in his final over saw him return with figures of 3/22 from four overs.

A requirement of 23 in the final over of the game, with two wickets in hand, was beyond the tourists’ reach. They finished at 167/9, losing the game by 17 runs and the series by a 0-3 margin. The Caribbeans would take home the disappointment of back-to-back clean sweeps, in the ODIs and T20Is. As for Sharma, after taking over the reins from Virat Kohli post the T20 World Cup, this was his third successive clean-sweeps as captain.

The hosts deserve even more credit for the fact that they became a bowler short in this game very early. Deepak Chahar started off by removing Kyle Mayers and Shai Hope, but while bowling the fifth ball of his second over, the seamer pulled up and hobbled off the field, holding his hip. Venkatesh Iyer replaced him and stood up to be counted as a bowler, getting rid of Kieron Pollard and Jason Holder. India revelled in a perfect team performance. Everyone stepped up and raised his game. Shardul Thakur’s catch to dismiss Rovman Powell brought the loudest cheer from a 20,000-odd turnout.

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SKY’s the limit

A club cricket old hand fell for Suryakumar Yadav’s lap-swept six off Dominic Drakes, recalling Desmond Haynes during the conversation. Thirty-three years ago, at Eden Gardens, he had seen the former West Indies opener going down on one knee and sweeping Wasim Akram to the fine leg boundary in the Nehru Cup final.. To him, Yadav’s shot against the West Indies fast bowler on Sunday offered a throwback.

For someone who is not a T20 nerd, not being aware of one of Yadav’s signature shots in this format was understandable. Modern-day fans are used to the batsman’s 360-degree cricket. In fact, Yadav’s first six in T20Is came from a lap-sweep, against England’s Jofra Archer.

On a used pitch where a new-look Indian top order struggled for timing and even Sharma didn’t get going, Yadav brought out all his innovations, in company of Venkatesh, to take the game away from the West Indies. From 93/4 after 14 overs, India went on a rampage at the back-end of their innings, posting 184/5.

The real transition, and challenge, for the Indian team would come in a few years from now, when their batting royalty, Sharma and Virat Kohli, walk into a golden sunset. By then, though, Yadav should be at the forefront to take over the mantle. His 31-ball 65, including seven sixes, was resplendent in his audacity. Even more eye-catching was his leadership qualities in the middle, the way he guided Venkatesh during an unbroken 91-run fifth wicket partnership off 37 balls. Yadav’s command unnerved the West Indies bowlers, as they lost the plot and played into the batsmen’s hands.

Talking about Yadav’s innovations, the lap-sweep was a starter. He took a six off Drakes over third man despite losing the bottom hand, opening the bat-face very late and timing the ball sweetly. Mumbai Indians retained the 31-year-old for Rs 6 crore. They bought Ishan Kishan for Rs 15.25 crore at the auction. No disrespect to the latter, but IPL auctions sometimes can make a mockery of cricketing logic.

Yadav was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series. He can build the innings and at the same time, go ballistic. “It was important to stay till the end when Rohit got out. We had a chat in our team meetings as well as to how we are going to react in such situations. I try to stay there till the end. Be a little harsh on yourself in the nets, that’s it,” he said at the post-match presentation.

Impressive Iyer

Spare a thought for Venkatesh whose performance has been steady and effective in this series. An upright stance and a clean swing of the bat serve well for the youngster in the shortest format, especially on pitches that have a bit of bounce. He scored 35 not out off 19 balls, hitting four fours and two sixes. The West Indies bowlers offered him several hit-me deliveries but those still had to be put away. The way he picked up a slower delivery from Shepherd, sat deep in the crease and walloped it over the deep square leg fence attested intelligence.

Venkatesh embellished his batting performance with 2/23 from 2.1 overs, the type of all-round show his team has been searching for.

With the series already in the bag, the hosts made four changes to their playing eleven. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer and Thakur came in, while Avesh Khan made his debut. The decision to open with Gaikwad and Kishan followed by Iyer at No. 3 was top-class leadership from Sharma. The skipper gave the youngsters the best positions to prosper, dropping himself down the order.

Gaikwad’s four off Holder showcased his talent, but he perished soon after, closing the bat-face a little early. Kishan and Iyer got out after getting in. India’s bench strength has been well documented. But the team management would take heart from the fact that India successfully defended totals in consecutive matches. A relatively inexperienced batting line-up responding positively to pressure situations was a big takeaway.

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