Clinical in most aspects of the game so far, India will now hope that star batter Virat Kohli also regains his form when they take on a struggling West Indies in the potentially series-deciding second T20 International in Kolkata on Friday. The touring West Indies side has been far from being at its best and has failed to trouble the hosts in any of the matches so far. After being outclassed 0-3 in the ODI leg in Ahmedabad, the Kieron Pollard-led team was expected to give India some challenge in its favourite T20 format, especially after a 3-2 win over England in its last series at home. But they hardly managed to trouble the hosts in the first T20I here on Wednesday, going down by six wickets.
Another win and it will be a third successive series win for Rohit Sharma after being appointed the full time captain for Team India.
The only concern for India has been Kohli’s form and he would definitely want a bigger knock than the scores of 8, 18, 0, and 17 so far in the assignment.
Rohit is confident that he would come good and has asked both critics and media to spare him the constant scrutiny.
On his part, Rohit knows the importance of going hard in the powerplay, something that was in full display in his 19-ball 40 when he took Odean Smith to the cleaners in an over that conceded 22 runs.
With Ishan Kishan looking ordinary and struggling to get going at the other end, Rohit made the bulk of the 58 runs that India scored in the powerplay, something that meant they never fell behind the 158-run chase despite losing three quick wickets in the middle.
After Rohit got out in the eighth over, Kohli had the perfect opportunity to return among runs and seal the chase. But that was not the case even though Kohli looked fluent in his short stay of 13-ball 17.
On any other day his inside-out shot would have been a clear boundary but this time he hit straight to the fielder.
As for Ishan, the most expensive (Rs 15.25 crore) buy in the IPL 2022 auction, he was not able to score freely and failed to rotate strike when Rohit looked in sublime touch.
But thanks to Rohit’s innings at the top, things did not go much out of India’s reach as Suryakumar Yadav and Venkatesh Iyer applied themselves beautifully to seal the chase.
With India opting for a six-bowler combination featuring pace bowling all-rounder Venkatesh, in-form batter Shreyas Iyer had to sit out of the opening game.
It remains to be seen what will be Rohit’s ploy in the second T20I which can seal the fate of the series for India.
“We were very clear with Shreyas, we told him the team wants that option (of an all-rounder) going into the World Cup. We need that option in the middle, someone who can bowl,” Rohit said after the match.
“A lot of things go into deciding the playing XI, the opposition, the conditions, the dimensions of the ground. Yes, sometimes it can be tough for the guys missing out but we are making sure we are giving out a very clear message. Unfortunately, we want to put the team first.” India will also be fretting over injury to pacer Deepak Chahar who sustained a blow to his right hand while fielding and could not complete his quota.
Looking for their first win of the tour, it would be a make or break match for the Windies.
They would look forward to the return of their pace bowling all-rounder Jason Holder who had to sit out of the first T20I following a niggle.
“He was hit on his chest during training and was not ready for the first game and was out as a precautionary measure. We are hoping he will be back for the next game,” said a team official.
For them, the lone bright spot on Wednesday was their vice captain Nicholas Pooran’s return to form with the bat.
Fresh from his Rs 10.75 crore deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad, the left-handed wicketkeeper batter revived the Windies innings with a 38-ball fifty, that came after opener Kyle Mayers failed to convert his start.
Pooran and a fit-again skipper Kieron Pollard stepped up the accelerator in the last five overs scoring 61 runs to lift their total to 157/7.
But in the end it proved to be 15-20 runs less, bringing the focus back on their middle over struggles where debutant Indian leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi made it difficult for the visitors.
With Holder back in business and Pooran and Pollard beginning to look at their ominous best, the West Indies would fancy their chances to keep the series alive.
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