3 April 2016 was the day when West Indies lifted their second ICC Men’s World T20 title. It came about in thrilling circumstances as Carlos Brathwaite hit England’s Ben Stokes for four successive sixes in the final over of the tournament. But there were hardly any doubts about the Caribbean side being one of the, if not, the best T20 international team in the world at the time.
Fast forward three years and West Indies’ fortunes in the format have changed drastically. Since the 2016 World T20, they’ve won just 12 and lost as many as 26 matches in the 20-over format. In fact, their win/loss ratio during this period is a mere 0.46, which is the lowest among all teams who have played 25+ T20Is.
On Friday, in the first T20I against India at Hyderabad, the West Indies definitely did show a lot of zeal and fight, especially as a batting unit. Despite the loss, there were encouraging signs for the visitors as they put up a total of 207/5 in their 20 overs. Considering they have been scoring at an average of only 19.80 runs per wicket since the last World T20, this will give their batting line-up some much-needed confidence.
On the other hand, despite finding themselves fifth on the ICC T20I team rankings, India have been put up some decent numbers since their semi-final loss to West Indies at the 2016 World T20. Since then, the sub-continental team have won 33 and lost 16 games in the format. While they haven’t been as dominant as they would have liked at times, a win/loss ratio of 2.06 is the third-highest among all teams who’ve played 25+ T20Is during the aforementioned period.
With India leading the series 1-0, the two teams will now head to Thiruvananthapuram for the second T20I on Sunday. While the hosts will be high on confidence after the victory in the first game, the away side will be keen to build some momentum going with the World T20 less than a year away
For India, it was captain Virat Kohli who was the star of the show once again. The 31-year-old notched up his 23rd T20I half-century (a record), en route to an unbeaten 94 off just 50 deliveries. While batting second in T20Is, Kohli averages 86.76 which is the highest for any batsman who has batted in 10+ innings.
While Kohli’s brilliance is obvious, the Men in Blue will also be pleased with the knock KL Rahul played. The Karnataka batsman, opening in this series due to an injury to Shikhar Dhawan, grabbed his opportunity and scored a half-century. In the context of the match, it was a very important innings as it set the platform for the big chase and also helped Kohli get his eye in at the other end.
In fact, if you consider Rahul’s T20I record, there’s a very good case for him to be included as India’s first-choice opener in the format. On Friday, he became the third quickest to 1000 T20I runs and he is the only Indian batsman who has a strike rate of 140+ while scoring 1000+ T20I runs. While his form in Test cricket was disappointing and he was consequently dropped from the Indian team, one mustn’t discard his credible performances in T20 cricket.
On the bowling front, Deepak Chahar leaked runs in the first T20I. Following a record 6/7 against Bangladesh, the pacer found the going tough despite picking up a wicket off just the second delivery he bowled on Friday. He didn’t take another wicket and conceded 56 runs in the 3.4 overs that followed. But Chahar will be encouraged by his record at the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram. In the three matches that he has played at this ground in 2019, he has taken nine wickets at an average of 10.3 and a strike rate of 7.3.
For West Indies, as mentioned earlier, their batting which hasn’t been firing over the last three years came good in the Hyderabad T20I. But they would want a much-improved performance from their bowlers if they want to level the series on Sunday.
The spin department has been a bit of a worry for the Caribbean side since the 2016 World T20. Among teams who have played at least 25 matches since, no team’s spinners have conceded more runs or taken more deliveries per wicket.
After awe-inspiring performances during the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Hayden Walsh hasn’t been able to replicate the same in the three T20Is he has played in since. But the West Indian management must persist with a bowler who has taken 30 wickets at a strike rate of 11.7 in T20 cricket this year.
India have now won seven consecutive T20Is against West Indies. Can the world champions put the brakes on that run or will the Men in Blue make it eight on the bounce?
India are unlikely to change a winning combination, but they might be tempted to bring in Mohammed Shami into the XI in place of a spinner.
India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Rishbah Pant (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar/Mohammed Shami, Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal.
West Indies will receive a huge boost with Nicholas Pooran available for selection once again as his four-match suspension has now ended.
West Indies: Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard (c), Jason Holder, Khary Pierre, Hayden Walsh, Sheldon Cottrell, Kesrick Williams/Keemo Paul.